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In-Depth Jobs


volume-7, 18 - 24 May 2019

New and Innovative Agriculture Careers for the New-Gen Outliers

Rruchi Shrimalli

We think farming is a profession for the poor and the uneducated. Stories of farmer's conditions and suicides reinforce this myth. But people are now realizing that agriculture can be much more in the hands of those who are well-educated, well-trained and have their hearts in the right place.

Here are some glorious examples:

-              Satyajit and Ajinka Hange have been hitting headlines for having a turnover of Rs 3 crore per annum through organic farming. The brothers studied in an Anglo-Indian boarding school in Pune while their father toiled in the fields in the Bhodani village in Indapur taluka of Maharashtra. Satyajit and Ajinka graduated with an MBA degree from Pune University and worked in the top MNC banks like Citibank, HDFC, HSBC and DBS for nearly a decade before moving over to organic farming.

Their success did not come easily. While they wanted to popularise the environment friendly and healthier organic farming model, they had to find ways to fetch a better price for their crops. They set up a new farmer market and got rid of the middlemen and retail chains by taking their produce to the customer's doorstep. Today, their customer base includes several Bollywood celebrities and some of the biggest business tycoons.

-              Pratibha Krishnaiah is another example of someone who gave up a cushy job of a software engineer in an MNC in Bengaluru to do farming in a village in Uttarakhand. Her motive was to help rural women earn money without having to leave their families and move to distant towns. Pratibha also teaches skills like knitting and crochet work to women and plans to find markets for their products in cities to help them earn a steady income.

-              Arvind Beniwal has established a 20-acre strawberry farm in the village of Palla at the northern fringes of Delhi. Many youngsters in this village have given up farming to grow exotic vegetables and fruits, wheat, paddy and even aromatic and medicinal plants.

-              Noida-based lawyer Aparna Rajagopal established a 20-acre Beejom Organic Farm and Animal Sanctuary on the outskirts of the city. Along with her team of farmers from seven states, she grows several organic crops using rainwater harvesting and techniques of natural farming and permaculture. Many of these crops are of native or heirloom varieties. Beejom is trying to change the mindsets and revive the organic way of living we once cherished.

Agriculture is one profession where you can earn money as well as make an impact on the people in rural India who have existed on the extreme fringes of our society till now - unseen, unheard, uneducated and unable to break free of their impoverished lifestyles. But agriculture is not only about farming. There are various aspects to this field.

Different facets of Agriculture you can work for

Production Agriculture

As the name suggests, this field involves producing crops, fruits & vegetables as well as raising poultry & livestock. Opening up a dairy, raising goats, sheep, pigs and even horses - all fall under the scope of production agriculture.

Agricultural Sales & Service

Selling fertilizers, pesticides, agricultural equipment and crops fall under the 'sales' category. Agriculture-related services include a wide range of jobs such as dusting crops, shearing sheep, trimming hoofs (of the livestock), farriers (smiths who fit horseshoes) and even veterinarians.

Agricultural Marketing & Business Management

Study of Business Economics, successful marketing tactics and a good understanding of developing markets can help anyone set up different types of businesses related to agriculture and agricultural products.

Agricultural Mechanics

This one includes agriculture engineering, maintenance of machinery, welding work, electrical work & plumbing, as well as planning and constructing buildings to produce and store agricultural products.

Agricultural Processing

Food Science is closely related to agricultural science. It means that agriculture graduates can work in any kind of food industry. At lower levels, the food industry requires plant workers, butchers, egg processors and many other skilled and unskilled kind of labour.

Forestry

Producing and harvesting timber, forest management and re-forestation are some of the career options you will love if you dream of living in green surroundings - away from the usual crowds.

Horticulture

Jobs related to cultivating and managing gardens fall under the aegis of horticulture careers. It includes greenhouse and nursery management, turf management, floriculture and landscaping (of gardens and expansive green spaces)

Rural Recreation & Natural Resources

This field mostly involves working with sustainable and renewable resources. Careers related to wildlife, water and soil can all fall under this category.

Agriculture Careers for those who want to do 'something different'

Agri-tech Entrepreneur: Nowadays, a number of agri-tech startups are coming up with innovative, creative and environment-friendly solutions to produce a healthy and sustainable food supply and reverse some of the environmental damage has already been done. For example:

  • Agrostar, founded in 2013 in Pune, is an m-commerce firm that sells agricultural products and solutions directly to farmers. It has its own field teams that deliver packages to more than 25,000 villages of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan on a timely basis.
  • Bengaluru-based Ninjacart connects over 3,000 farmers in South India with about 4,000 retailers in Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad to transport fresh produce from farm to retailers in less than 12 hours!
  • Bombay Hemp Company, founded in 2013, is exploring the medical uses of cannabis. It has partnered with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for the purpose. It is also working on making help clothes and conduct R&D on medicines related to the treatment of epilepsy and breast cancer.
  • Stellapps employs the Internet of Things (IoT) concept and data analytics in the dairy space. Incubated in IIT Madras, it monitors the quality and quantity of milk, creates wearable devices to monitor the cattle health and looks after infrastructure to house cattle and store dairy products.
  • High-tech Farmer: When you use the latest technology and agricultural methods to save time, money and energy, you become one of the farmers who is re-shaping the agricultural industry in India. Some of the techniques high-tech farmers employ are - aeroponics (growing plants in the air), hydroponics (growing plants in water), using drones to survey their crops and satellites to drive tractors. Here are some examples:
  • CropIn Technology Solutions introduced a cloud-based 'SmartFarm' platform which can remotely detect crop damage.
  • Trimble Inc developed 'Greenseeker' - a hand-held device which can read soil nutrient levels instantly.
  • Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions offers an IoT-based system to schedule irrigation timings.
  • Farmers can get the samples of their soil tested in the labs across the country and get recommendation on what crops to sow and what fertilisers to use to get higher yields at a lower cost.

Agricultural Adventurer: When you aren't interested in the typical 9-5 job you become an adventurer. Almost all the people we had first mentioned in the introduction of this article are adventurers in their own right. Agriculture is one field that will always be there and innovative technologies will keep creating new careers and new opportunities in the field. You can always contribute to this change by doing something that you really enjoy.

Agricultural Journalist: As a journalist, you can write about government schemes, industry regulations, food production options, new agricultural technologies and equipment and anything related to the latest happenings in the industry. Some of the best-known agricultural journalists in India covered the stories on the impact of the Forests Rights Act on the tribal people and worked on the impact of the rural health schemes on the BPL families of the Mewat region of Haryana.

Print and Packaging Designer: Print and packaging designers are in high demand with grocery stores and retailers. So, if you are creative, you can design the packaging for the agricultural producers and food industrialists.

Agriculture Courses in India you can do after Class 12

Certificate Programs

The shortest agricultural courses that one can opt for after Class 10 or Class 12 are the Certificate programs that usually have a duration of one to two years. Most popular certificate programs are offered in Horticulture, Floriculture, Aquaculture, Fish Farming, Bee Keeping and Fruit Production.

Diploma Courses

Most diploma courses are three-years long but some of them may have a duration ranging from one to three years. One can do these courses after Class 10 or Class 12 (depending on the eligibility criteria defined by the institute offering the course). Most popular Diploma courses that people opt for are offered in the fields of Agriculture, Dairy Technology, Floriculture, Food Processing, and Horticulture.

Bachelor Programs

Students from any stream who have completed their Class 12 with the minimum specified criteria can opt for the BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) in Agricultural Management. The duration of the course is three years.

Students who have cleared their Class 12 with Science stream (especially Physics, Chemistry, Biology (PCB) stream or PCB with Math (PCMB) stream)) can opt for B.Sc (Bachelor of Science) in Agriculture, Dairy Science, Plant Science, Agricultural Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food Science, Horticulture, Plant Pathology, Fisheries Science or Forestry. B.Sc programs are again 3 years long.

Students who have cleared their Class 12 with Science stream (especially Physics, Chemistry, Math (PCM) stream) can opt for B.E. or B.Tech courses in Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Information Technology, Dairy Technology, Agriculture and Dairy Technology or Agriculture and Food Processing. Occasionally, students having PCMB or PCB stream may also be granted admission to these programs based on their academic records and performance in entrance exams. B.E. and B.Tech programs are typically 4 years long.

Where to study Agriculture?

About 400 educational institu-tions in India offer under-graduate and postgraduate courses in Agriculture (and related fields). Some of the best institutes to study Agriculture in India are:

  1. Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi
  2. Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore
  3. Central Institute of Agriculture Engineering (CIAE), Bhopal
  4. Anbil Dharmalingam Agricultural College and Research Institute (ADAC&RI), Thiruchirapalli
  5. Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI), New Delhi
  6. National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal
  7. Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), Kochi
  8. Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE), Mumbai
  9. National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (NBFGR), Lucknow
  10. Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun

Depending on the particular field you are interested in, you can look for the institutes, colleges and universities offering the most relevant course for you.

Is Agriculture the right career choice for me?

That's the hardest question to answer for somebody else. You need to make your own choices. Still, we will discuss some of the skills and characteristics that an agriculturalist must have to be able to succeed in the field:

Love for Science and Math

If you love to study Science and do Math and interested in learning more about plants, animals and soil, Agriculture is the right degree for you. Along with farming, ranching and other agricultural practices, you will also be studying the latest technologies that will need a touch of a myriad of disciplines.

Today, the field of agriculture is developing to become a high-tech and fast-paced industry. So, along with Physics, Chemistry and Biology, having a knack to crunch numbers and some training in finance or management can set you on the path to success.

Adaptability

When you study agriculture, you need to be adaptable. Learning about soil testing in the classroom can be quite different from going to the fields and testing the soil samples for farmers who depend on your assessment to have a successful cropping season.

Moreover, you need to be able to think quickly and come up with solutions in the industry where consumer demands are constantly changing, new methods and technological innovations are getting introduced every day, and new obstacles and challenges keep cropping up.

Communication and inter-personal skills

Whether you set up your own agri-business or work for an employer, you will need good communication skills to deal directly with farmers, vendors and suppliers, and consumers.

The ability to negotiate well as well as handling formal and informal dialogues skillfully is a must in the industry where you have to deal with the government and regulatory bodies on a regular basis.

Whether it is sales, brand building and advertising, public relations or management, each aspect of running a successful agricultural business relies on effective and strategic communication.

In the end, you must be ready to understand and fulfil your responsibility towards the society and environment in general.

Rruchi Shrimalli is a career counsellor e-mail: rruchi shrimalli@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal.

(Image Courtesy : Google)