Tech and talent in the field
Across Alberta and Saskatchewan, technological change is transforming the way food, livestock, and other agricultural commodities are being grown and processed. Digital agriculture, agtech, and precision agronomy are taking hold in the province’s agribusiness sector, and it’s opening up all kinds of new career opportunities, some of which might surprise you.
The new era of tech-led efficiency is pushing aside traditional ideas of what it means to farm, and offering exciting career paths for professionals with the right know-how, skillsets, and desire to contribute. In fact, it’s safe to say that there’s an acute talent shortage in agriculture generally, with vacancy rates in the sector expected to rise to 123,000 by 2030.
Technological change on the farm is being driven by other factors, too. The pandemic upset global supply chains, underlining the importance of growing more food locally. Add to that the disruption of global food supplies caused by the war in Ukraine. Finally, concerns over climate change are pushing farmers to adopt cleaner and more sustainable technologies to help reduce food’s massive carbon footprint.
Keeping food accessible and affordable to global populations means all eyes are on smart farming. So what are some of the most exciting opportunities for professionals ready to enter the field? Here at Palette Skills, we have some ideas. After all, we offer an exciting upskilling program we’re calling the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program that gets people ready for careers in digital agriculture and agtech.
Let’s look at just a few of these occupations right now.
Precision Agriculture Specialist
A Precision Agricultural Specialist supports and guides farmers who are turning to tech to boost crop yields. Precision technologies include GPS and geographic information systems (GIS) to optimize agricultural growth while conserving resources. This kind of specialist will help analyze data, and develop crop management plans that incorporate sophisticated sensing and food tech.
The average salary range is between $74,602 and $131,714.
Control Systems Specialist
A control systems specialist handles multiple industrial instruments within the agritech ecosystem. They use tools such as distributed control systems (DCS) to collect information which is then used to optimize a farm’s process control system. This role involves collaboration with team members to ensure customer coverage. In this career path, opportunities will increase as technology and robotics become the norm.
The average salary is $85,551 per year. The range varies with experience from $57,000 to $128,000.
Sensor Specialist / Remote Sensing Analyst
At the forefront of precision agriculture and precision farming, a sensor specialist/sensing analyst is responsible for using sophisticated tools such as optical sensors to gather data, process it, and implement the information. They use GPS, drones, and other tools to compile research datasets. This position requires great project management skills, because it’s often a collaborative effort. As organizations shift to reducing input costs and improving yields, opportunities in this career path will only increase.
The average range is between $51,875 to $105,000, with the average yearly salary being $80,000.
An agricultural automation technologist identifies, manages, and implements new tech solutions across the agri-food value chain. Technologists help streamline processes, and pay close attention to emerging technologies such as GIS, the internet of things (IoT), drones, AI, robotics, sensors, and big data. If you have a tech thumb, it’s a great role for you. It also helps to have great business and project management skills. An essential career path in smart farming, market data suggests that prospects for this field are on the up.
The average salary is $70,000 per year.
Business Development Representative
All of this sophisticated tech doesn’t sell itself. So a business development representative (BDR) handles direct sales to farms and agricultural operations. This professional is responsible for opening new accounts and tending to existing ones. Cold calling and visiting new customers in targeted market segments is the norm. It’s a position that requires knowledge of business-to-business marketing, and project management skills. BDRs can work independently, but also with a broader team to ensure client satisfaction.
The average salary is $70,300 per year.
These are professionals providing agronomic advising and services based on data analytics and precision tech. They often use specialized knowledge of agronomy to enhance farming, and manage crop production. Precision agronomists consult with producers, investigate challenges, and provide unique solutions. They can also be counted on to offer in-season support for soil sampling and data collection. It’s a role that involves fostering great customer relationships and offering support.
The average yearly salary is $57,685.
Digital Adoption Specialist (DAS)
A DAS engages both new and established businesses and operators with precision ag-related digital tools and capabilities. Additionally, they provide feedback to internal and external digital product development teams about real business needs and priorities. They often work with teams to develop and implement training and communications material, honing in on aspects of business ops and precision ag-related tools. They are experts in digital tools such as Digital Hub, Echelon, Ag Logic, NutriScription, Agrible, and are called on to train and support field staff. As smart farming evolves, we see plenty of room to grow in this career.
The average yearly salary is $69,000.
Agricultural Data Analyst
An agricultural data analyst collects and sorts real-time data, tracks trends in markets, and ultimately offers hard data to help clients optimize the production process. They are tasked with improving inefficient processes and creating insightful reporting, and thus bring the problem-solving abilities of the analyst. They will extract, manipulate, and analyze large data sets, and draw conclusions. Collaboration with specialists and strategists is a key component of this integrated and supportive role. There is room for growth in this occupation, as demand for high-level analysis is often cost-saving for medium to large scale enterprises.
The average salary is $61,709 per year.
Agriculture ERP Implementation Specialist
This professional is responsible for integrating an Enterprise Resource Planning system within an agricultural operation. They install and implement ERP software that records and tracks crop cycles, diseases, and the impact of fertilizers. This information is used to increase efficiency and minimize costs. In some cases, the specialist may be involved in customizing software to meet the unique needs of the agricultural setup.
Salaries are $82,875 per year on average.
Getting started in agtech has never been easier
At first glance, you’d think that most—if not all—of these occupations require advanced and very specialized degrees. But more and more, occupations in agtech are open to people who bring a wide range of skills and talents. Our Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program is designed for people who are comfortable with technology, know something about agriculture, and are passionate about upskilling. It’s an intense program built for people with the right foundational abilities and aptitudes, and it’s designed to get you up to speed with automation and digitization technologies in agricultural production and processing.
The innovative upskilling program has been designed in consultation with leading agribusiness leaders, including experts at the University of Saskatchewan who understand the need to fill agtech’s talent shortage. By working closely with industry, Palette Skills is disrupting the requirements for starting a career in the field. Interested? Find out more about the Digital Agriculture Specialist Program from Palette Skills!