Agricultural experts say jobs in the industry today go beyond just driving a tractor as farmers embrace new technologies.
According to Farm and Food Care — a lobby group for farmers across Ontario — the agriculture and food and beverage sector industry provides about $34 billion to the province’s economy.
And according to Steve Brackenridge, the director of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, one in eight jobs in Canada is in agriculture, food and beverage processing or related fields.
“There’s four jobs waiting for every person who’s graduating from an ag program under the University of Guelph currently,” he said.
And advances in technology have helped to create new jobs and roles in agriculture, notes Paul Glenn, president of the Peterborough County Federation of Agriculture.
“It’s a lot more high-scale, so it’s not just holding a steering wheel anymore,” he said. “It’s using global positioning systems to actually navigate the equipment.”
He notes many jobs found in agriculture today include accountants, technicians, public relations, and anyone in the trades.
There are also new unique jobs such as the use of drones to assist farmers.
Norm Lamothe, the owner of Deveron UAS, a full-service drone company in Cavan, Ont., collects data on crops. Lamothe says the cameras on the drones measure the health of the crops through infrared technology.
“My background is actually in aviation, and I left that career to pursue the family farm,” he said. “It was a local grower here who actually introduced me to drone technology at the agriculture level. I investigated the technology, and decided to pursue a small business.”
His small business has now turned into a company that operates across North America, with 25 employees.
“All of our UAVs fly by themselves from set missions, we’re fully licensed by Transport Canada, our operations are strictly regulated,” said Lamothe.
Lamothe says he’s looking for new employees who have the required skills, such as a background in aviation as well as agriculture.
“Certainly pilots. We hire pilots every summer … and also we’re looking for individuals that have a tech background in statistics and data analysis,” he said.
Lamothe says technology should help the agricultural industry thrive.
“Technology is going to play a strong role in increasing efficiency, and ultimately the amount of money that a farmer can put in his jeans at the end of the day,” he said.
Glenn says more people need to start looking at the agriculture industry as an employment option.
“There’s a lot of unemployed people in Canada, and a lot of them don’t ever think of ag. Everyone that’s three or four generations off farming now really have a different perspective of what their grandpa’s farm looked like, and what agriculture looks like today.”