Hutchinsons initiative to support new agronomists

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Agriculture students from leading universities and colleges have taken part in a competition designed to provide a unique insight into the role of the modern agronomist.

The initiative, organised by Hutchinsons, attracted around 120 students from Writtle University College, The Royal Agricultural University (RAU), Harper Adams University (HAU), Nottingham University, Riseholme College and Bishop Burton College.

Students had the opportunity to visit one of three Helix demonstration farms in Oxfordshire, Yorkshire and Shropshire, where they were given practical demonstrations of the roles, responsibilities and technology available to agronomists in the field. Attendees then had to answer questions about what they had learnt, from which three winners were chosen, each taking home £100 prize money.

Technical director, Stuart Hill, said: “Since Hutchinsons was formed 85 years ago, the role of the agronomist has changed markedly, and particularly so in the last 10 years, so we wanted to give students a taste of what the job entails, and the technologies available to help us make better decisions for growers.

“The agronomist’s role now goes far beyond advising on crop protection, covering anything from strategic business planning and costings, integrated crop management and agroecology, soils, nutrition, traits and digital technology.”

Integrated solutions

This holistic approach to crop management was clearly demonstrated by agronomist Amie Hunter, who explained how crop protection was just one of the four pillars of integrated crop management, the other three being; agronomic strategy, risk assessment, and cultural methods.

ICM covered everything from rotation, variety choice, and cultivation policy, to cover cropping, nutrition and crop protection strategies. All were interlinked and required a clear understanding of the processes involved in order to make effective decisions, she noted.

“ICM isn’t new, but it can be quite hard to manage given that there are so many different factors to consider. This is where technology such as Omnia is really helping growers and us as agronomists, by bringing everything together in one accessible platform.

“The industry has developed a huge ability to measure data in the past few years, so the challenge now is how we use this effectively to make more informed decisions,” she said.

Welcome insight

One of those attending the Oxfordshire event was Sarah Langford, from a family farm in Suffolk, studying for a Graduate Diploma in Agriculture at RAU in Cirencester. She is also the author of Rooted: Stories of Life, Land and a Farming Revolution.

“Two things have really stood out for me: One is the current level of sophistication, it’s fascinating to see the amount of data that can be collected down to a square-metre level, and how different data sources can be layered to help make decisions.

“The second thing is that it’s very clear ‘business as usual’ simply isn’t an option for farmers. It’s refreshing to hear an agronomy company being forward thinking and realistic about the direction that farming’s heading in, talking about areas like soil and agroecology. It just shows how multi dimensional farming is.” 

Winning student – Bogdan Diedov, BSc Agronomy, RAU.

Bogdan Diedov

Third year agronomy student Bogdan Diedov, has a passion for sustainable agriculture, and recognises the need for innovative solutions to feed a growing world population. He said: “I attended the Hutchinsons event hoping to gain an insight into the latest research in agronomy, network with industry professionals, and learn about potential career opportunities.

“The event exceeded my expectations, providing valuable information and possible connections to help me in my future career. Key findings included learning about Omnia Digital Farming, and methods to improve soil health.”

After graduation, Bogdan wants to become an agronomist and believes sustainable practices are key to helping farmers reduce their environmental footprint, conserve resources and maintain soil health, making the food system more sustainable and efficient.

He said: “As an agronomist, I am fascinated by the potential of biotechnology to solve agricultural problems. I want to explore how biotechnology can improve crops, pest, and disease control, and resource efficiency.”

New entrants

The Hutchinsons Foundation is a three-year training programme focussed primarily on giving new entrants a route into agronomy, although it also supports those wanting to pursue a career within the company’s other specialist services and technical roles.

There are two main routes into the Foundation; either directly from University, or those who have worked on a farm in different roles and are looking to re-train or specialise.

The programme allows individuals to gain their professional qualifications, and all the technical and “softer” skills training needed to become a successful agronomist. It is a fully employed role, with a good percentage of time out with colleagues, shadowing, and learning from them.

Hutchinsons also offers a year-long student placement programme.

To find out more about the career opportunities across Hutchinsons, go to

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