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Agriculture

A track in a wheat field

Agriculture in the United Kingdom uses 71% of the country's land area and employs 1.5% of its workforce (472,000 people).

The agri-food sector in the United Kingdom accounts for a total estimated Gross Value Added (GVA) of £127bn or 6.4% of national GVA according to the UK Government report: Agriculture in the UK 2020.

Within the agriculture sector there are a huge range of opportunities for graduates of all degree disciplines to contribute from farm to fork.

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

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Your next steps

If you have questions about your plans, talk to a member of our team.

Book a careers appointment

 

Explore the sector 

Those working in the agricultural sector are constantly navigating a changing environment, just a few examples of key topics affecting the sector are: 

  • The global food security crisis.  How will we be able to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050? This is the research focus for Nottingham’s Future Food Beacon  

  • Managing the impacts of climate change, but also considering the contributions agriculture makes to the issue.  The UK government has released a roadmap to encourage more sustainable farming in the UK over the next 7 years.  

  • The ongoing free-trade deal negotiations post-Brexit.  

The Transforming food production challenge is providing up to £90 million of funding to help businesses, researchers and industry to transform food production, meet the growing demand and move towards net zero emissions by 2040.  Find out more about some of the projects that have already received funding to give you a sense of the possible future of the industry. 

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board's (AHDB) strategy enables British farmers, growers and their supply chains to succeed in a rapidly changing world by:

  • bringing data, insight and analysis together in an easy-to-use format to help farmers, growers and supply chains make better business decisions 

  • helping farming and growing businesses reduce their environmental footprint to meet future policy and consumer needs 

  • investing in targeted research to tackle current and future pests, weeds and diseases 

Given these three points alone, there are a range of opportunities within the sector for graduates from all degree disciplines. 

Find out more about the sector:

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board

National Farmers’ Union

Department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA).

Farmer’s Weekly

BBC latest agriculture news

 

What employers and roles are on offer in this sector? Includes podcast

Employers

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 Jobs.ac.uk 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.

Roles

Visit Tasty Careers for a detailed 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. 

Prospects - Graduate opportunities in agriculture

Sainsbury's 'From cow to customer' video

 

How do I find a job?

Qualifications

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.

Skills

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.

Vacancy sources

Specialist recruitment agencies and job boards include:

Farmers Weekly 
Jobs section searchable by type of job

Agricultural & Farming Jobs 
One of the sector's specialist jobs boards

Jobs.ac.uk 
Advertises research roles within the agri-food industry

More People - recruitment agency covering the fresh food, horticulture, agriculture and garden industry sectors

De Lacy – recruitment agency in global agricultural recruitment

 

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. Approach Nottingham academics who work in the relevant areas of research to ask if there are any summer opportunities. There are also sponsored opportunities and funding for summer research placements, visit:

 

Get involved at Nottingham - enhance your job prospects

Student societies

Agrics

Farmers Market

Food (Sutton Bonington)

Student Food Cooperative

UoN Agricultural Careers Facebook group - closed group, request to join

Bioscience placements

Industry placements

Doctoral Training Partnerships

BBSRC

Nottingham Doctoral Training Centres 

Gain experience beyond your studies

Nottingham Consultancy Challenge

Work as part of a multi-disciplinary project team to deliver a real-life project for a business or charity over a six-week period.  A great experience especially for those looking at applying for agricultural consultancy roles

Nottingham Consultancy Challenge

Nottingham Advantage Award

The Award is the University's free employability scheme that helps you prepare for the job market and formally recognises your extracurricular activities.

Nottingham Advantage Award

Nottingham Internship Scheme

Undertake an internship with a local business or charity during the Easter or summer vacation. Develop relevant skills needed by employers in the agricultural sector.

Nottingham Internship Scheme

 

Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
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telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679
email: careers-team@nottingham.ac.uk