This is the first in a series of case studies we’ll be publishing about industries that are growing and present new career opportunities for upskilled workers.
At ODEM, we’re big proponents of upskilling; an accessible, affordable and efficient method of increasing career opportunity and potential for fulfillment.
In this case study, we’re looking at agronomy, defined as “a branch of agricultural science that deals with the study of crops and the soils in which they grow,” by ScienceDaily. Agronomists develop data-based methods that will “improve the use of soil and increase the production of food and fiber crops.”
Agronomy is a burgeoning industry for data scientists. Data science, often synonymous with software development, is applicable to nearly every industry. Farming used to be a manual science, based on an experiential method, ie.’ what worked last year will work this year.’ Today, farming is based on measuring infinite and variable data points, producing instant analytics and calculating the best course of action on a daily cadence. This has produced a new industry around farming called agriculture technology, or AgTech, that focuses on digital farming.
Digital farming is driven by data science, producing farming strategies that are tailored to a specific environment, crop and desired yield. Because of this data-driven approach, and other contributing factors including genetic modification (a data input), yields have become exponentially higher with improved quality and profitability.
“Digital farming is applying precision location methods and decision quality agronomic information to illuminate, predict and affect the continuum of cultivation issues across the farm,” writes Michael R. Collins, President of Advantage Development in What is Digital Farming - Really? for PrecisionAg.
Each farmer’s field can be defined by a unique collection of information. Collins goes on to explain that the role of the data scientist is to organize, analyse and orchestrate the effective “delivery of information from the bodies of data that constitutes a field. It must be about breaking the field down into differentiable, geo-located and individually homogeneous units of productive assets.”
To do this, agronomy and agriculture-focused data scientists can be Certified Crop Advisors (CAA), specialized in computing languages like SQP and Python, precision agriculture and digital agriculture.
Industry leaders like Agrible, Bayer Crop Science Unit, John Deere and Indigo Ag are looking for specialists who have education in statistics, yield improvement, management and optimization, soil sampling, crop quality, regenerative agriculture, geofencing, plant science, agricultural aerial imaging and mapping and more. These kinds of specialization layer on top of a traditional data science and computer science education, widening the scope of career opportunities for graduates. Not only that, but it presents an opportunity for graduates to apply their expertise to a field that has a direct and tangible effect on a local community and economy.
According to Planet, the industry is being driven by rising population and resulting increase in food demand, declines in farm income, digital disruption and consolidation, food loss and waste, farm robotics, machine learning and analytics and blockchain technology.
Valley, an agtech company based in Omaha, Nebraska, uses artificial intelligence to identify irrigation needs. Reported by Future Farming on October 12, 2019, “Valley Insights is designed to move growers closer to autonomous crop management, generating greater returns while using fewer inputs and resources. Using computer vision, the service scouts to identify areas of over- or under-irrigation and related plant stress.”
For scientists who have traditionally engaged with data and algorithm development, upskilling with courses focused on agronomy creates an effective pathway into this quickly growing industry. ODEM offers a unique opportunity in innovative and understaffed industries like artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital agronomy. We don’t just provide education opportunities or a job, but a way for individuals to integrate them.
We’ll be publishing more case studies soon, looking at industries that provide a myriad of career opportunities for upskilled workers. Check out the ODEM program catalogue for all of the courses that you can sign up for today to further develop your skills!