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Agricultural engineering: a growth industry, in every sense of the word

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Whist agricultural engineering has always offered a unique chance to enjoy a challenging, rewarding experience like no other, it’s fair to say that there has never been a better time than the present to consider a career in the industry.

Food security, both nationally and globally, is at the forefront of government and private-sector thinking, with increasing levels of resources being channelled into research and development as we strive to develop new and practical ways to cope with the ever-looming threat of a food shortage.

A changing landscape

As the population grows, the knock-on effect is that the amount of land available for farming begins to shrink. Ultimately, this means that as a society we must produce more food to feed the expanding population, with less land to grow it on. Add climate change into the mix and what we’re faced with is a society at great risk of running out of food. Something needs to be done, and agricultural engineers are likely to play a huge role in the future when it comes to providing solutions to the challenges we face – both now, and in the forthcoming decades.

Of course, for many people the first thing that comes into their head when they think of agricultural engineering is the standard farming machinery we’re all familiar with – tractors, combine harvesters and fertiliser spreaders – and those who think of these wonderful machines would be right – a new generation of farmers will be dependent on young people taking on agricultural technician jobs to maintain and repair both the current generation of machinery and the farming technology of the future.

A day in the life of an agricultural engineer

While no two days in the industry are the same, an agricultural engineer could expect to find themselves assessing the techniques currently used by landowners and farmers before identifying ways in which they could improve their land. This would involve the careful planning and supervision of construction projects to tackle environmental problems which affect crop yields.

Agricultural engineers are also expected to work in the design, construction and maintenance of specialist machinery used in forestry, horticulture and farming – for example, creating all-terrain vehicles designed to traverse uneven ground in all-weather conditions.

Farmers, landowners and government organisations are all dependent on agricultural engineers to help them understand big issues like sustainability, crop diversity and the ability to adapt to climate change. In short, the industry expects workers to:

• Assess any environmental impact intensive farming methods might have.
• Oversee land reclamation, drainage, irrigation and construction projects.
• Solve current engineering problems by creating new ways of working.
• Install and test new equipment – everything from harvesters to crop sprayers and storage facilities to logging machines.
• Analyse GPS and weather data, before using computer modelling to advise farmers on how to improve the use of their land to increase profits and enjoy better crop yields.

Average working times

Most agricultural engineers work full time, with typical hours being 9am to 5pm Monday-Friday. However, no two jobs within this field are the same, and some may find themselves working irregular hours with plenty of early mornings – as might be expected on a farm.

However, not all agricultural engineers are positioned on-site or in the field. Many are based in laboratories for research and development purposes, workshops for construction and/or offices for designing. Agricultural engineers can generally expect to enjoy working in all conditions – from braving the inclement weather outdoors to sitting at a desk.

Scope for travel

One of the largest emerging markets for agricultural engineers is the developing world. As populations continue to rise in some of the toughest landscapes for arable farming, engineers are increasingly tasked with devising new ways to get more out of the land without being tough on the environment. There is great scope for travelling and working abroad, either long-term or for months at a time on a contract.

Agricultural engineer: skills checklist

Graduates entering this field would most likely be adept at:

• Communicating in a clear, concise manner
• Showing the initiative and taking the lead
• Presenting reports, hypotheses and findings to a team
• Using computers to a very competent level
• Finding solutions to difficult problems – thinking outside the box!
• Investigating and researching
• Budgeting
• Organising their own workload and the workloads of others
• Time management

Multi-disciplinary field

What ultimately makes agricultural engineering an attractive proposition is that it combines various disciplines to create a specialist skill set – and it's one that’s high in demand. Think mechanical, chemical, electronic, civil and computer engineering all rolled into one and you’re getting there. Today’s agricultural challenges require the understanding of autonomous vehicles, robotics, sensors, biology and more – all these skills are transferable and in high demand elsewhere, too.

While many students aiming to graduate in engineering have their sights set on the automotive industry, aerospace or transportation, many overlook the fact that agricultural engineering could provide them with a much more rewarding career, in virtually every aspect.

For example, electronics engineers might find themselves tasked with creating computer code which links to sensors connected to machines equipped with GPS technology. This information would then be used to map current yields, monitor machine positioning and feedback on current soil conditions – put simply, agricultural engineering is no longer the preserve of simply ensuring machinery functions properly – it’s about innovation, development and devising solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

Precision farming and technical development

As the agenda for precision farming continues to grow in importance, increasing numbers of career opportunities are opening for engineers of all types. Farm machinery is incredibly complex and requires designers with skill and vision to further develop lighter yet more durable machines which do not negatively impact upon the soil which they travel across. Innovative ways to use engineering to get greater use out of farmland are constantly in demand, and the rewards for innovating in this industry are incredibly high.

With a world and wealth of opportunities available for skilled personnel within the farming industry, there has never been a better time to consider a career in agricultural engineering.

If you are looking to progress your career, here at Agricultural Recruitment Specialists we are specialists in agricultural, food, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: www.agriRS.co.uk or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk

Alternatively, if you are a client looking to expand your team, then please call us today on 01905 345155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk