STEM Jobs in Agriculture
It’s probably fair to say that working in agriculture does not have the same glamour to it as joining a Silicon Valley start-up, at least to the average person on the street. But jobs in agriculture can offer an extraordinary range of scientific and engineering openings for those prepared to dig a little deeper in search of them.
Some estimates suggest that a full quarter of new jobs in agriculture require a STEM background, so opportunities are there for the taking. Read on for a look at just a small sample of some of the careers out there.
Engineering jobs in agriculture
For those of a mind, agricultural engineering contains a huge range of work. An agricultural engineer may design, build, or maintain any type of agricultural equipment.
Farming is a hugely technical area these days, so there are multiple ways into this type of work, from a more traditional mechanical engineering route right through to getting in through computer engineering.
Modern agriculture is a highly competitive business, and agricultural machinery is an industry with a great deal of money in it. Even something as commonplace as a modern tractor is packed to the gills with high-end technology.
An agricultural engineer might design and work on equipment for use on farms, or for large scale machinery in sorting and transporting foodstuff. Salaries vary considerably depending on the precise sector but can be very lucrative.
Opportunities for geneticists
Geneticists can find plenty of rewarding careers in agriculture. Genetic modification of plants and animals is legally limited within the European Union, but there are many jobs in other countries working on altering the genome of crops and creatures.
Even where GM food is not allowed to be sold, there is research being done to understand plants and animals for agriculture. There are numerous opportunities in research and industry for scientists able to better help us understand the genetic secrets of our crops and livestock.
AI in agriculture
Like pretty much every industry imaginable, agriculture is being transformed by artificial intelligence. One example is fruit picking. Knowing which plant is ready to be plucked, and for what reason, is not an easy task. Experienced fruit pickers, for instance, rapidly determine the ripeness and quality of each piece they see, deciding whether to leave it on the stem, pick it for high-end use, or for a different purpose.
AI researchers, working with roboticists, are gradually moving into this market, with the belief that it will be possible to automate this task, at least for certain crops.
It is a fascinating field where the software of AI meets the physical world of a farm, and will doubtless provide an increasing number of jobs in the future.
Data scientists jobs in agriculture
Data miners may find themselves drawn to the role of bioinformatics scientist. Combing through huge datasets of information on the genetics and molecular make-up of plants and animals, a bioinformatics scientist often works in the pharmaceutical industry, but agriculture offers a number of opportunities too.
Increasing amounts of investment are finding their way into the field, so job opportunities here seem set to keep on increasing.
Using GIS to map land
Geographical Information Systems are in many ways a natural fit with agriculture. Many of the tools of GIS are excellently suited to working with farming.
Analysing soil types, water flow patterns, areas of high and low sunlight – all this and more can be best understood using geographical information systems.
More and more businesses and governments are utilising the skills of GIS professionals to understand how to best manage agricultural land.
The future of agriculture
For those looking for something even more cutting edge, you might consider looking into vertical farming.
It’s a small industry looking to grow food almost entirely indoors, using a carefully controlled environment and highly energy-efficient lighting to produce food all year round.
Or one might even be interested in producing food that does not come from traditional agriculture at all. The swift rise of ‘fake’ meat, (lab-grown foodstuff indistinguishable in taste from meat) might just herald a future where a lot of our food doesn’t come from the ground at all. If so, there will be an ever-increasing number of positions for scientists out there.
There is, then, a huge range of jobs out there. As mentioned at the beginning of this, it’s not an area that many people traditionally associate with STEM, but that just might mean more opportunities for those who go looking.
There’s never been a better time to get into the industry, so perhaps it’s time to bet the farm on just such a career…