Are our agronomy jobs in threat of extinction?

Are our agronomy jobs in threat of extinction?

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Brooke Sauer is CEO of IntellectAg, a digital agriculture consulting company.

Brooke Sauer is CEO of IntellectAg, a digital agriculture consulting company.

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How do you protect your career when you are not redundant yet?

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The Gauge | Opinion 

Ironically, I am a long way down the list of commentators to publicly share an opinion on the topic - The Future Agronomist!

As a digital ag consultant who makes a living talking about disruption - one would have expected that I would realise this topic is probably already redundant, or my comments are about four years too late.

Despite not being at the front of the commentary train, my research on the topic identified that the subject is still up for debate and not surprisingly there are just as many agronomists as ever.

I work with many agronomists and agribusiness. Many acknowledge the potential technology has to disrupt their core service. The disruptor can be elusive and hard to recognize so I appreciate the propensity to forego the first mover advantage until the direction of "change" becomes obvious.

It is no surprise to anyone that agronomists must evolve. Agriculture is changing and the vision is constantly being reinvented. Farming systems are complex, and agronomy is becoming less about the reliance on chemistry advice and more about ensuring every hectare of the field thrives.

How do you protect your career when you are not redundant yet? How do you fend off disruption?

Agronomists will need to develop skills to include many sub-titles:

Data experts: The availability of data to measure what was once determined by gut feel, refined with experience. Sensors and services will measure and monitor crops, inputs and resources. In the near future, agronomists will need analytical skills to collate data, identifying useful information and draw sensible conclusions, via multiple browser tabs with multiple passwords.

Strategists: Longer term, resource profiling, diagnostic tools, modelling, artificial intelligence and integrations will reduce the time needed walking the fields. Agronomists can focus on strategic decision making, drawing on technical, communication, strategy and management skills.

Specialists: Agronomists will need to increase their knowledge on a greater range of topics. Or we will become specialists; genetic agronomist, IT agronomists, crop hydrologists, crop geologists, crop meteorologists, environmental agronomists, business agronomists.

Environmental stewards: Optimising and matching inputs to productive potential presents a clear path on protecting our natural resource and maximising profit margins. Whilst technology will provide options, it is the role of the agronomist to bring context and sensibility.

Architects of clarity: The practices farmers use and the produce they bring to the market will become scrutinised. Transparency and accountability will be expected by consumers. Agronomists have a role to support that - ensuring best practice and recommending the responsible use of inputs.

One thing to keep in mind - agronomists understand the dynamicity of farming. It will take a mighty server with a magnitude of input training to artificially recreate the intelligence agronomists possess, but don't sit on your laurels.

- Brooke Sauer is CEO of IntellectAg, a digital agriculture consulting company.

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