When thinking of careers to pursue most of us don’t consider a career in the agricultural sector, but it is one of the most important industries when it comes to any country’s development and food security.
Add to that crucial issues such as poverty, famine, genetic modification and environmental sustainability, agriculture plays a vital role in the longevity of a nation.
With South Africa’s economy heavily dependent on a thriving agricultural sector, not to mention recent talks around land, a career in this sector is well worth considering.
With that in mind we’ll be looking at six careers which we think will be integral to South Africa’s agricultural landscape moving forward.
Agronomists are important to the South African agriculture industry because there is limited fertile land and the majority of crop farmers need to increase the fertility of their soil to achieve good crop yields.
Agronomists usually run experiments on large-scale crops, working to develop methods that will improve the use of soil and increase the production of food and fibre crops. They usually also conduct research in crop rotation, irrigation and drainage, as well as plant breeding, soil classification and weed control.
Climate combinations (PDF) leave only 12 percent of the country suitable for production of rain fed crops, while only three percent is considered truly fertile land. South Africa will need to increase the amount of fertile land available and consequently, crop production.
Horticulturists are a requirement in the agricultural industry because the value chain is undergoing a process of rapid transformation. Horticulture plays a significant role in the generation of the agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), the import and exports of fruits and vegetables in the country.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the gross value of agricultural production was an estimated R247 billion, with horticulture contributing 28.5 percent to this total, in 2017.
Horticulturists focus more on how plants live and reproduce and what means can be used to nourish, harvest and sustain plants (fruits and vegetables) in a garden.
As an agricultural engineer you will be more concerned with the design, construction and improvement of farming equipment and machinery and how to integrate technology with farming.
You are responsible for designing and building agricultural infrastructure such as dams, water reservoirs, warehouses, food storage structures and food processing plants. You may also help engineer solutions for population control at large farms.
Engineering is generally a sought after skill in the country, and more so in the agricultural sector. Engineers are needed to apply ideas and solutions on how to help communities (rural and urban) create infrastructure and how to provide support and knowledge to small-scale farmers.
Agricultural economists specialise in the theory of optimising the production and distribution of food fibre such as whole grain. They provide forecasts of economic settings, with special interest in agriculture, along with constantly monitoring the agriculture industry and the factors that could affect production.
Every country needs their economy to grow, and agricultural economists are needed to address and find solutions to issues such as food security and affordability.
Animal bioscientists study the biology of animals that are under the control of humankind. They apply principles of biological, physical and social sciences to the problems associated with livestock production and management.
As an animal bioscientist you will deal mainly with three basic principles – namely breeding, physiology and nutrition. There are also aspects of animal product science such as meat, dairy and wool production.
Animal bioscientists are needed to make sure that South Africa has a sustainable livestock sector (PDF) that continues to contribute to the food security, reproduction and conserve the livestock population of the country.
As an agricultural biotechnologist you will apply biological processes of production on a wide range of organic substances and ways of recycling waste.
This profession can be concerned with micro-organisms, genetic engineering or cell culture and may do some work on the development of new organisms. You can also design and develop systems for industrial manufacture materials such as fuel, animal food stuffs or antibiotics.
Biotechnologists play an important role because they optimise energy crops and processes to support the biofuel industry, and can help develop rural areas and the green economy.
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