Creating connections in digital agriculture: a talk with Jader Ronconi

We wanted to sit down with Jader Ranconi, our Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program alum, to ask him about his experience in the program, and find out how it helped him get started in a Canadian agribusiness career.

One of the most exciting things about the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program from Palette Skills is how it brings people together. Participants in the intense 8-week bootcamp come from all kinds of different backgrounds, and throughout the course of the program they share unique perspectives with colleagues, instructors, and industry partners. It makes the innovative agtech program a rich experience, and at the same time, helps build a community of professionals who are passionate about what they do. 

The team at Palette Skills sensed this passion early on with Jader Ronconi. Jader moved to Canada from Brazil just months ago, where he worked as a procurement specialist in agribusiness. Settling down in Saskatoon, Jader completed the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program, and now works as a senior category analyst for Nutrien. We wanted to sit down with Jader, ask him about his experience in the program, and find out how it helped him get started in a Canadian agribusiness career. 

Walk us through your career trajectory in digital agriculture. How did you get started with it?

JR: I have only been in Canada for 10 months, but I’ve been making my living in agriculture in my home country of Brazil for 15 years. I love agribusiness, so when I arrived here I was looking for a position that would let me use my knowledge and my previous experience. There was a lot to learn. For example, in Brazil there is a lot of sugar cane, and here you don’t have any. But there are a lot of similarities. 

What made you decide to join the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program from Palette Skills? 

JR: College would have taken too long, and I believe it would not be as focused as the upskilling program from Palette Skills. As a newcomer to this country, I liked the idea that it was a short and specific program with quick results. I know I made the right choice and I don’t regret it. Of course I think a college degree is important, but I already have an MBA in international business and an undergraduate degree, so the format of the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program was the right choice for me. 

Can you share some of the challenges the digital program helped you overcome?

JR: I am not a native speaker of English, so this program really helped me overcome that barrier. The thing is, there is a specific vocabulary of terms about agriculture that I simply didn’t know in English. So it opened my mind to this whole new world of words, and the result was when I went to a job interview, I knew these words, because I had the chance to study them already in the program. 

One of the highlights of the program for me was learning about weather, because it’s really important, and very different from Brazil. For many of us who come from other countries, the weather is not as critical as it is here in Canada, because in my country for example, the mild weather means you can sometimes plant two crops in a year. In Canada you have to be productive, and you have to do it right because you only have one shot. This program helped me understand how important that is, and I really appreciated it. 

How did the program help equip you with the skills you needed?

JR: The program is really complete. Each of the modules gives you information that you use every day in your job search, and in whatever you do. Each module was relevant to my day, and to my career. So there was learning vocabulary, there was the experience we had in the field, and the exchanges that we had with the instructors, and of course sharing things with other participants. People in the program come from all different countries, and they bring all kinds of new information that we all learn from. It’s really rich.

How did this program prepare you for your new role in agribusiness?

JR: I’d worked as a senior category analyst in procurement in Brazil, so I knew a lot about procurement already. One of the things I learned in the program is how important it is to bring data and high-quality information, and then apply it to the real world. The Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program really helped me understand that. The program showed me how important this is from a variety of perspectives, and about different kinds of crops. I am definitely applying this knowledge right now in my current work as a senior category analyst for Nutrien.

How did the hands-on learning in the program help you?

JR: When you do things outside and are learning through activities, it’s different. It’s a better way to remember what you are learning, and it’s a great way to share with colleagues. When you are out there with people it’s different, because you are feeling the energy, and you live the experience. There are people in the program from all over the world, and this made it a richer experience for me. And the practical experience of being in the field really made a difference to my understanding and helped me apply what I was learning in the program. 

How did you get hired in your current position? Did that happen while you were in the program?

JR: Yes that actually happened inside the program! But you know, recruitment processes sometimes take longer than you expect. I think the coaching part of the program from Palette Skills really helped, because we got coaching on how to tailor our resumes, as well as feedback on how to change words or expressions on our LinkedIn profiles, and this kind of mentorship made a big difference.

During the program you are encouraged to apply for different positions, so that’s what I did. When the program finished, I had put in my application to Nutrien, so it was like the two processes were running in parallel. That’s how I got the job! Palette Skills gave us the challenge of looking for work in agribusiness, so I did my homework, and that’s how it happened. 

What would you say to newcomers who want to be involved in digital agriculture?

JR: First of all, be open minded. We all have previous knowledge and experience, but now we are in the situation of living and working in a new country, and in a new culture. This means we have to take our previous experience and combine it with where we are now. When we understand that better, we can also understand what our transferable skills really are, and apply those to our new positions here in Canada.

You know these kinds of behavioural skills are almost as important as any kind of certification. You have to be curious, and be able to look at the big picture. Palette Skills really helped with that, giving us the chance to learn things like being a good team player, for example. 

If anyone is hesitating about joining the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program, what would you tell them?

JR: They need to give it a shot, because the program made all the difference for me! When it came to my job search, or to the vocabulary I learned, or the content we studied. You get a chance to create a connection with instructors and your colleagues, and you get a Canadian certification that shows the labour market that you are learning how to do things here, and you are getting yourself qualified. I strongly advise people to do the program!

About Palette Skills’ Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program

The Palette Skills Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program is a 130-hour training designed to equip participants with cutting-edge automation and digitization technologies for agricultural production and processing. The program aims to prepare highly skilled workers to effectively utilize technological solutions across the agri-food value chain in the Prairies. Participants receive hands-on, project-based training from industry experts in emerging technologies like GIS, IoT, drones, AI, robotics, and big data. They also develop essential professional skills including project management, business development fundamentals, problem-solving, and team-building.

Embark on a promising digital agriculture career in Canada, just like Jader did. Explore the program’s comprehensive course guide and seize the opportunity to join the next cohort.

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