Scientists and leaders from Kansas State University announced last week the creation of a unique project that brings together soybean growers in the United States and fish farms in Cambodia to build sustainable food and trade networks.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research and Sustainable Intensification (SIIL) at Kansas State University, in partnership with the American Soybean Association’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health, officially launched the Commercialization of Aquaculture for Sustainable Trade Cambodia project, which is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture Food for Progress program.

CAST was awarded $17.1 million for five years in six key regions, making it possible for Cambodia’s private sector and universities to work closely with U.S. soybean growers and businesses, as well as academic and non-governmental organizations.

CAST will connect trade and development by accelerating the production of high-demand fish species for the Cambodian market and developing a lasting aquaculture industry that recognizes the value of soybean protein in feed.

The partnership will work to increase the productivity of aquaculture farms in six provinces around the country by providing training to increase the quality of and access to resources and markets, as well as promoting policies that will better support aquaculture farmers and their needs.

CAST-Cambodia held its official launch in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on January 31 and featured remarks from His Excellency Veng Sakhon, Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Michael E. Newbill, chargé d’affaires, at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Also in attendance for the launch were Megan Francic of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, and Jim Hershey, chief of party for CAST-Cambodia, as well as a delegation from the American Soybean Association.

Sakhon expressed his appreciation for this collaborative partnership with U.S. institutions, the USDA, and the United States Agency for International Development, which funds SIIL.

He said these types of projects promote economic stability and help to improve the livelihoods of Cambodians, while building people’s confidence and trust by promoting agricultural health.

The CAST project will benefit from the expertise of SIIL and its linkages with the Royal University of Agriculture’s Center of Excellence on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN) in Cambodia, according to the center’s director Lyda Hok.

“This is a great opportunity to continue to build capacity within the Royal University of Agriculture and strengthen our partnership with Kansas State University and other U.S. institutions,” she said.

CAST will be managed through SIIL by associate director Jan Middendorf and research professor Manny Reyes.

“Connecting the CAST partners with SIIL and CE SAIN provides an effective knowledge-sharing platform designed to extend Cambodia’s private-sector network, especially related to feed mills and hatcheries,” said Vara Prasad, University Distinguished Professor and SIIL director.

Promoting food and nutrition security both at home and abroad is important to Kansas State University, said Ernie Minton, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and interim director of K-State Research and Extension. “Anytime the university can participate in improving the lives of farmers and increasing the capacity of the agricultural sector, we are fulfilling our role as a world-class university and research institution.”