Running a farming operation can be difficult without the tools and infrastructure. Because most farms are located in rural areas that may not have readily access to power and water, systems need to be designed and in place so that crops and livestock can obtain the necessary nutrients to grow. Furthermore, large farms tend to own a huge amount of livestock and crops and there needs to be an inventory system to help farm managers keep track of what they have and which areas require more attention in order to enhance the operations’ productivity.
As a result, agricultural engineers play an important role in enhancing the productivity and the overall profitability of a farming operation. They are responsible for the design of machinery, structures and infrastructure to maximize the yield of crops and the management of livestock. From GPS tracking devices on livestock to irrigation and power systems, engineers bring vast knowledge in improve the processes of agriculture and the overall agribusiness.
Agricultural engineers are involved in various aspects of a farming operation’s infrastructure including:
• Piping design and installation of the irrigation and sewage systems.
• Devising a system to deliver power to the farm, including the design of transmission towers, wind generators and solar panels.
• Implementing a GPS system to keep track of livestock.
• Design of a sensory system to indicate the crops’ growth level and appropriate time for harvesting.
• Installation of enterprise resource planning software to keep track of inventory, revenue and expenses which integrates with the farm’s financial record keeping system.
• Implementation of occupational health and safety system to keep track of inspections as well as ability to submit the proper paperwork to regulatory agencies to maintain compliance.
Is a career in agricultural engineering the right path for you?
• Do you enjoy developing solutions to problems?
• Are you someone who enjoys designing systems to improve processes?
• Are you technology savvy and are interested in computer programming?
• Is drafting one of your favorite courses in school?
• Are you interested in developing environmentally friendly approaches to farming?
If any of the questions above describes you, then further education in the area of agricultural engineering may be a possibility. Agricultural engineering is offered at colleges that have a department in agricultural sciences. On the other hand, students do not necessarily have to be enrolled specifically in an agricultural engineering program to become involved in this field. Because a lot of agricultural engineering projects touch on civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, students may want to consider enrolling in one of these programs and are able to apply their skills in the agricultural industry.
Generally, engineering courses are four-year programs at colleges; however, there are two-year programs available. Students graduating from a four-year program may enter the profession as a junior engineer, while graduates from a two-year program may qualify for engineering technician positions which focus more on the implementation rather than the design of systems. Furthermore, engineering students will eventually need to obtain professional licensure in order to advance their careers.
There is a demand for agricultural engineers due to a number of reasons including the need to acquire access to water and power from remote locations, increasingly complex farm operations requiring data management and compliance with environmental regulations. Students who are interested in developing solutions to address these issues will likely find a rewarding career as an agricultural engineer. For more information, visit the agricultural department websites of various colleges in the U.S.