Emerging Technology, Recruitment Challenges and the Increasing Need to Attract New Talent within Agriculture

7 mins min read

By Hazel Noble

Global Recruitment Consultant

The agriculture industry has experienced enormous change in recent years, from natural environmental and land changes to scientific advances, and huge initiatives to create a more sustainable industry. The introduction and development of technology is one of the most significant changes which, like many other industry sectors, is exponentially re-shaping the industry and improving output, efficiency, profitability, safety, and increased sustainability.

The global digital agriculture market size is estimated to grow from USD 5.6 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 6.2 billion by 2021, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9%. (Business Wire)

From the internet of things to mobile technology and big data, the introduction of artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation and robotics, the agriculture industry has seen rapid change with smarter ways to detect, measure and forecast. Data science, predictive analytics and yield monitoring have contributed to more efficient processes and the detection of crop diseases, more intelligent harvesting, and the prevention of waste.

Throughout the pandemic, social distancing measures meant more Agriculture organisations adopted digital communications and methods. This has meant less physical interaction on sites, and the use of smarter tools to share information, data and processes such as stock control. Something that even post covid, will remain a permanent feature in the industry.

Weather data, aerial imaging, drones, and field mapping all contribute to improved decision making, risk management, more effective planting times and better ways to analyse and regulate processes such as praying, irrigation and harvesting. Geofencing and geographic information systems are being utilised to track and monitor livestock, reporting back significant changes where action may need to be taken.

This has resulted in the increased need for a variety of new skills required for organisations to move forward and a wealth of new roles created, in an industry already experiencing recruitment challenges, employment within agriculture has decreased to 1% in the UK.

Recruitment challenges within the Agricultural Industry

Attracting and retaining talent in the agricultural industry has become increasingly difficult in recent years due to skills shortages, loss of talent to competitors and lack of education and awareness of what it’s really like to work in the sector. The perception of the agricultural industry being predominantly focused on manual labour roles, without the understanding of mid-senior level roles requiring specific skillsets across a variety of areas. The impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have further exacerbated issues and meant organisations in the sector have had to adapt to survive and thrive.

With the introduction of new technology, there is a demand for specific skillsets to utilise the technology advancements within the industry. Attracting specific talent and younger demographics across a wide range of role categories, not previously required within the industry has become a pressing need for organisations.

Automated processes have reduced the need for physical interaction on site, many processes are now facilitated remotely. With new and enhanced processes in place utilising technology and digital communications, there is an increased amount of data to collect, analyse and act upon. This is where new roles within the sector have increased and why there is a specific need to attract new skillsets and talent to the industry. Predominant role areas are data analysis, programming, and project management. 

Hear from Brett Davis (Chief Officer, CNH Industrial) on technology impact in the sector:

“Organisations within the industry are having to reinvent themselves to transition from being engineering to technology focused with a customer centric and solutions focused approach and message. There are three developing areas within technology, early diagnostics, fleet management analytics and automation and management information.

Over the next ten years it is expected we will experience the biggest change in headcount within the agriculture sector to enable a new type of workforce as technology and automated processes continue to evolve. Organisations need to plan ahead for further recruitment challenges.“

There are other factors that contribute to recruitment challenges, such as the ageing crisis, with more professionals retiring and not enough people coming up through the ranks. Outdated or inaccurate views also have a negative impact on the number of people considering entering this workforce. There is a pressing need to educate the next generation, bringing their attention to such advancements in tech, and highlighting the exciting opportunities available and the long-term career prospects.

Attracting talent - what can be done?

Businesses are being urged to act now to ensure they are attracting, retaining, and developing talent, to increase stability for the future of their business and the industry. To attract such talent, it’s likely they’ll have to cast a wider net or look further afield for potential employees. They may also need to think of new ways to attract people, for example offering relocation packages or training and development opportunities.

Gidi Zelichover (Head of Territory Support, Netafim) on attracting new skillsets within agriculture and farming:

“Due to emerging technology and the greater need for specific skillsets within agriculture, organisations are looking to other sectors to attract talent with transferable skills. Some of these sectors include IT, Construction, Science, Engineering, Horticulture, Mining, plus widening the attraction of candidates across all sectors within Agriculture and Agronomy, instead of a specific focus on individual specialist areas.

Netafim have heavily invested in their marketing and branding to ensure they position themselves as an employer of choice and appeal to wider demographics for the hard to fill mid to senior level roles. They have reviewed their existing processes and packages to ensure they can compete with competitors and demonstrate value to potential employees such as flexible working, higher salaries, and greater benefits, which are common driving factors for candidates exploring new opportunities in the sector. “

For a lot of organisations, there is less emphasis on recruiting key recruits with experience in the sector, and there is more focus on recruiting those who have strong technological abilities, great experience communicating globally through digital communications and the ability to embrace and drive change remotely.

Brett Davis (Chief Officer, CNH Industrial) on enhancing your talent attraction and employer brand:

“At CNH Industrial, to address recruitment challenges we have reviewed existing processes and focused on changing the work environment to appeal to potential employees, to engage and support our existing employees alongside their overall employer experience. Focus areas have been increasing flexible hours, remote working, reward and recognition, and engagement activities to enhance the overall offering and morale across the business to support retention goals. Hybrid working is now a permanent way of working and because of technology allowing for remote working and communications, we encourage onsite collaborative workdays to ensure physical social interaction between colleagues. This is a key part of team building and integrating new employees within the business, when most processes can now be delivered remotely.”

How CSG can help you attract talent to drive your business forward

Due to the strong focus on digital communications and processes, predominant roles have changed and there has been an increase in new roles within the sector. Therefore, there is a challenge in attracting candidates in these areas, with specific industry experience. Organisations in the sector are having to consider other sectors with transferable skills and focus on sharing industry specific knowledge alongside training and development internally. At CSG, we work closely with candidates in the below areas so we can ensure our clients have access to high calibre candidates with the relevant skill sets and experience so they can add value to an organisation.

The roles increasingly in demand within Agriculture are and the areas we are predominantly focused on supporting our clients with business growth are; Data Analysts, Programmers, Project Managers, Researchers, Developers, Business Development/Sales and Leaders/ Senior Hires who can effectively communicate and drive performance and processes through digital communications.

At CSG we take a proactive approach to attracting talent. We specialise in headhunting difficult-to-fill roles for clients worldwide. With our team of highly knowledgeable, specialist recruitment consultants and vast global networks, we’re able to achieve unparalleled recruitment success for our candidates and clients in the agricultural industry.

We work closely with our clients and candidates to establish and highlight market trends and insights to enable us to successfully work as an extension of their business and attract the top talent in the market. We’re aware of industry challenges and have regular conversations with our clients to stay up to date on new developments and formulate methods to overcome recruitment challenges and source the best talent in the market.