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In 2018 the UK government invested £90 million to support farmers and agricultural business embrace innovation and technology to make agriculture more efficient and sustainable to accommodate a growing population. Innovate UK’s 2018 report states that agricultural productivity must rise to meet the challenge of feeding a global population of 9 billion by 2050. The good news is that all of this vital development will generate opportunities for students graduating from all degree disciplines.

Other life science sub-sectors you may wish to explore further are:

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Visit Prospects for details of the wider science and pharmaceuticals sector

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PhD and masters students

Look out for these boxes – information specifically for you! 

Explore the sector

Demand for higher protein diets in developing countries, climate change, consumer behaviours and new agricultural and breeding techniques all have impact on global food security as outlined by a 2018 government report on trends in agriculture.

The UK Plant Sciences Federation produced a 2019 report, Growing the Future, highlighting initiatives in plant sciences which seek to address challenges including our ability to produce nutritious food for healthy populations.

The UK Government have been working with the Canadian Government on improving agricultural production, and identified key areas of focus:

  • improving the food manufacturing chain
  • genomics and breeding to tackle pests and disease
  • antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use
  • phenotyping: collection of biological data
  • diagnostics and sensor technologies
  • understanding soil health
  • improving feed efficiency
  • data standards, better connectivity and analytics

Employers and roles


Typical employers in this sub-sector include:

Farms and agricultural contractors

The National Farmers Union website produces and job vacancy database, and a directory of relevant organisations.

Government departments

Various Government departments and bodies focus on different areas of the agri-food industry:

Research institutions and organisations

Agri-food is a fast-paced industry facing a range of environmental and consumer-related issues that require innovative research solutions.

  • Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) is a scheme where graduates work with an academic or research organisation to support a UK business on a specific project focused on innovation for 12 – 36 months, Innovate UK list vacancies and have a ‘landscape map’ showing funders, innovation centres, networks and research & training programmes.
  • Viewing the relevant agri-food vacancies on will give you an idea of the various research organisations and departments. 
  • ADAS is the UK's largest independent provider of agricultural and environmental consultancy, rural development services and policy advice.
  • Government list of centres for agricultural innovation (including Agrimetics, crop health, livestock and agricultural engineering). Each website this leads to is different, but navigating will lead to opportunities and/or lists of institutions and organisations involved.
  • One of Europe’s leading Biotech clusters is based around the Cambridge area, with several research and industrial organisations close together.
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) supports research, people and institutions.
  • Agri-Tech East is an organisation that brings together farmers, food producers, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs with an aim to improve productivity, profitability and sustainability of agriculture. A list of member organisations can be accessed via the website.


Visit Tasty Careers for a details list of job descriptions, both graduate and non-graduate, across the industry.

There are also several relevant job profiles in the Environmental and Agriculture sector on the Prospects website including:

Demand for specialist roles that combine disciplines is growing, for example using bioinformatics to analyse data and programming skills for simulations. 

Sainsbury's 'From cow to customer' video


How do I find a job?


While there are specialist degrees available, many of the roles across the agri-food industry will be relevant to those with a biology, chemistry, engineering or healthcare-related degree.

You may find that a masters qualification is an advantageous way to build your specialist knowledge, particularly if the role you wish to apply for is a technical one. 

For research roles, a PhD may be required.


Specific skills will vary between different jobs, but a career in this industry is likely to require the following:

  • The ability to formulate and communicate ideas
  • Negotiating, marketing skills to support new product/business development
  • Role-specific technical and analytical skills
  • The ability to conduct work safely and ethically, and to explain it clearly
  • Strong communications skills – able to work collaboratively with colleagues and to build effective relationships with customers/clients
  • Enthusiasm and commitment

Recruitment processes

Large recruiters such as supermarkets or Government departments will have clearly defined and well-advertised graduate recruitment processes, often starting their recruitment in the autumn term, prior to graduation for roles starting the following summer.

Smaller organisations such as specialist retailers, research consultancies, agricultural businesses, etc, are more likely to recruit as demand arises.


How do I find work experience?

To identify the most relevant experience for the particular role that interests you, view job descriptions and vacancy details, and talk to recruiters or individuals working in within your chosen part of the industry. Networking can be a valuable way of getting a foot in the door.

Start by asking for advice and then build up to exploring opportunities for practical experience. 

  • If you are interested in the agricultural production side of the industry, gaining experience on a farm will be beneficial

  • For those who are considering new product development, experience in market research or a food retail environment will raise your awareness of consumers and their needs

  • If you want to work in a research environment, finding a vacation placement or internship in a relevant department will enhance your future applications


Get involved at Nottingham - enhance your job prospects


Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679