Mixing agriculture with STEM has set Simone Barakat up with an awesome career in agritech!
STEM wasn’t really on Simone’s radar at school, but a passion for agriculture and environmental sustainability sparked her interest in science at uni. Majoring in food science and agricultural economics at the University of Sydney, Simone says her degree required a lot of science subjects. “I found them much more interesting in uni than in school as I knew that they all related back to my bigger interest of agriculture.”
Now she works as a product manager for Farmbot, an agritech company who has built an Internet-of-Things (IoT) solution that monitors and reports on farm water infrastructure.
Her role involves understanding their customers’ pain points then working with software engineers to create solutions. The four main parts on her job are researching, designing, project managing and being the intermediary between customers, the business and the engineers.
Simone is currently working on Farmbot’s SaaS (software as a service) platform to help farmers remotely monitor and manage water on their farms. “Farmbot’s IoT hardware is installed at various water sources across a property – some are up to two million hectares – and can communicate via satellite or cell to our software,” Simone explains. “Then, instead of driving several hours to check, farmers can now log in to our platform and have 24/7 surveillance of their water and we’ll alert them if anything goes wrong.” The ultimate goal is to save farmers time, fuel, labour and water.
One of the most interesting and challenging parts of working on the Farmbot platform, according to Simone, is making the hardware and software performant in even the most remote and harsh areas. “We want to extract as much value for our users while also transmitting as little data as we can over satellite/cellular and have that still load and work with little or no reception,” she says. “While in urban areas we’re so accustomed to a better, faster internet connection, so it’s been really interesting trying to solve this for the opposite.”
Getting into agritech
Simone admits it was a pretty steep learning curve going from an agriculture degree to understanding software development. To support her own learning, she started an internship at an agritech company called AgriDigital while still at uni, and found lots of resources online to keep herself up to speed. “Something that I learned once I started working in software is that it’s an industry that changes so quickly that everyone is also learning as they go!”
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Thinking back to her school days, Simone wishes she knew how diverse the career opportunities are in STEM. “I think I never appreciated how many different and cool jobs are available in STEM and how far you can go with those foundational studies,” she says.
Simone’s top tips for getting into STEM or agritech? Find people working in the roles you’re interested in (that could be family members, friends, colleague or even through LinkedIn) and ask them HEAPS of questions! “Some of the brightest and most impressive people I’ve met while working in this space are also the most curious and ask the most questions.”
Simone’s study and career path to becoming an agritech product manager
- Bachelor of Food Science and Agribusiness (Honours Class I), University of Sydney
- Certified ScrumMaster
- Food & Agribusiness Advisory Intern, PwC
- Product Analyst, AgriDigital
- Product Manager, Farmbot Monitoring Solutions
Author: Louise Meers
Louise is Careers with STEM’s digital content strategist. She has a journalism degree from the University of Technology, Sydney and has spent over a decade writing for youth. She is passionate about inspiring young people to achieve their biggest goals and build a better future.