Agricultural consultant: job description
Agricultural consultants are specialist advisers who provide technical, commercial and financial advice and information to farming, agricultural and public sector staff.
The working week tends to be from Monday to Friday, although variations in workload relate to seasonal demands.
Agricultural consultants provide advice on the use and management of agricultural land. Typically they specialise either in business or technical expertise; specialists in the former area advise agricultural landowners on financial issues and business strategy, while technical specialists consider how to make the most effective use of the land. Technical specialists often focus on a particular area, such as pollution control, forestry consultancy, or crop rotation. Whatever the specialisation, the ultimate aim of an agricultural consultant is to balance the commercial viability of agricultural land with sustainable development. Key tasks include:
- visiting farms to conduct analyses and collect data, such as crop yield
- measuring, analysing and interpreting data
- conducting land valuations
- advising on compliance with current legislation and use of governmental or EU schemes
- giving demonstrations
- making presentations
- writing technical publications
- preparing reports
- developing and maintaining a set of client contacts
- maintaining awareness of developments in your area of specialisation, as well as the wider agricultural sector
- attending conferences
- advertising and marketing services.
A large proportion of the work is home or office based, while some consultants may also spend time in the laboratory. Visits to farms may require a substantial amount of car travel, although the distance and the need for overnight stays depend on the project. The working week tends to be from Monday to Friday, although variations in workload relate to seasonal demands - some long and unsocial hours may be necessary during busy periods.
Opportunities for promotion are into senior consultancy positions and then management positions. Promotion is often related to experience and performance, and relocation or specialisation may be required to progress.
Jobs are advertised by specialist recruitment agencies, in local/national newspapers, by the National Farmers' Union and trade publications including the New Scientist, Nature, Farmers' Weekly and The Scottish Farmer. Speculative applications are highly advisable, for which directories such as the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants (BIAC) or the Associaltion of Independent Crop Consultants' List of Members may be useful. It is also an excellent idea to make use of the contacts agricultural colleges and departments have to local and national agricultural businesses and institutions.
A few farm management consultancy firms offer a small number of graduate trainee positions.
Opportunities for overseas work occur regularly, although previous international experience is often necessary and many vacancies are temporary.
- Agricultural development agencies
- Public sector organisations, charities and conservation bodies
- Home and foreign governments
- Farm management consultancy firms
- Farmers, growers, landowners and farming co-operatives
- Rural property consultancies.
A degree in soil/earth sciences, agriculture, horticulture, crop/plant science or animal science is normally the minimum academic requirement for entry into the profession, although it may be possible to enter a business consultancy role in agriculture with a business degree.
Whatever specialisation you choose, prior experience of the agricultural industry is essential. A relevant postgraduate qualification may also be necessary for overseas work, and further study into a niche area may help career progression.
Due to the nature of the work, it helps if graduates enjoy working outdoors. A driving licence and car often feature among the list of essential requirements. Employers look for individuals with evidence of:
- good written and oral communication skills
- sales and persuasion skills, along with the ability to maintain relationships
- technical and analytical skills
- nusiness acumen
- proficiency in IT
- the ability to work well within a team.