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Getting Started In Agro Research | Mount Sinai

Getting Started In Agro Research

Career Paths
Agro Research
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In spite of the increased urbanization of the US, there are millions of acres of land remaining in the agro economy. As an individual with a Master’s Degree or PhD in Agro Research, there are many opportunities to work as a researcher, project manager or project supervisor in fields related to how we use things we grow in order to make use of them in unique and interesting ways.  Some examples are antibiotics,  vaccines, abiotic stress resistance, plant and animal breeding, pest and pesticide resistant crops, and industrial fibers. There are opportunities in Academia, Governmental Agencies, Corporations that use grown products for fuel and in the Food and Beverage industry.  Some of these opportunities involve a great deal of field research and application; others are based in laboratories across the world.  Your purpose in the field of Agro Business is to maximize the usage and variability of the products we develop and grow. 

Large Agro Research Employers to Consider

  • Archer Daniels Midland is located in Decatur, Illinois and has 270 plants worldwide.  It processes cereal grains and oilseeds used in the food and beverage industry.  They also market animal feed. 
  • Monsanto, an Agro business based in Creve-Coeur, Missouri, is the leading producer of genetically-engineered seeds, selling 90 percent of the seeds in the US.   It has a company beneath it called Agracetus that produces Roundup Ready Soybean Seed for commercial use.   Monsanto also markets bovine growth hormone. 
  • ConAgra is one of the biggest packaged food companies in the US.  You’ll find its products in supermarkets, restaurants and food service companies.  It is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. 
  • Cargill is located in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota and was founded in 1865.  It is the largest privately held company in the US.  It purchases, processes and distributes grain and other agricultural commodities.  It manufactures livestock feed, processed foods and certain pharmaceuticals.

Other Career Paths

  • Agro Biotech.  There are numerous organizations and corporations that focus on biotechnology and its relationship to agriculture.  For example, Pioneer Hi-Bred, a Dupont Company, develops advanced plant genetics for world-wide sale.  There are a number of Asian companies that offer positions in fields related to the making of certain products and chemicals with Agro origins. 
  • Academic Agro programs.  There are a number of excellent programs around the United States that focus on Agro Research and need faculty.  Some of the best are:

o   Cornell University

o   Iowa State University in Ames

o   North Carolina State University

o   Pennsylvania State University in University Park, PA

o   Purdue University

o   Texas A&M University at College Station

o   University of California at Davis

o   University of Florida

o   University of Illinois in Urbana and Champaign

o   University of Nebraska in Lincoln

o   University of Washington

o   University of Wisconsin

o   Virginia Tech

o   Washington University

Any one of these colleges and universities has opportunities for academically-inclined postgraduates interested in basic research in agriculture and agro-based processes. 

  • Government Agencies.  There are many government agencies related to Agro Research.  The US Food and Drug Administration, which evaluates the safety of food, has a series of interviews on working in Food Science at the Agency.  The Agricultural Research Service is the principal scientific research agency of the US Department of Agriculture. Homeland Security is another option, helping keep our food supply safe and doing diagnostic work on tainted food in cases of suspicious epidemics. 
  • Biofuel Organizations and Companies.  These companies are involved in making biofuels like biodiesel from previously planted crops.  These include Arizona Biodiesel, which makes biodiesel from restaurant wastes.  Algae Biosciences makes fuel from algae.  Amereco Biofuels Corporation makes diesel derived from soy.  PetroSun Corporation makes algae-based fuel.

What will your Career Path be Like?

In the corporate field, you may begin as a researcher in the R&D department of the company.  From there you can advance to become a project manager or project supervisor in any one of the Research and Development Departments of your company.  There are also jobs in sales of products created by the agro business company you work for.   If you work in biofuel industries, you can be offered a job in production management or in research and development. 

Your focus may be on biofuels, antibiotics, vaccines, crop enhancement, animal foods, the production of commercial products from agricultural products or some similar line of study.

About 2 million of the 20 million people employed in the Agro businesses work on a farm.  The remainder works in laboratories with travel to the field to test different products on crops or animals.  You can work as a supervisor or manager in Agribusiness Management, Agricultural Communications, Natural Resources Communications, Parks and Recreation, Packaging, Horticulture, Food Science, Fisheries and Wildlife, and Forestry. 

As a postgraduate, you would most likely have a job in management unless you like research and want to do basic research.  To pursue basic research, you can stay in academia, take a government job, or work for one of the largest businesses. If you work for a corporation, you may manage a plant or a research laboratory that is studying your area of interest. 

According to the American Farm Bureau, Food Scientists and Food Engineers are among jobs in greatest demand currently and in the next several years.  There will be about 57,000 jobs opened per year to manage the 58,000 graduates.  A total of 32 percent of these openings will be in food science, food engineering and related job specialties. 

Finding Jobs in Agro Business

You can find jobs in Agro Business by applying to one of the major companies listed above or applying to an agriculturally-based University or College.  Agriculturalcareers.com is a good portal for Agro Research positions.  You can also apply to firms specializing in Biodiesel and Bioethanol, if those are of interest to you.  There is a job board at AgCareers.com in which you can search for a job in Agro Business. 

Positions in Agro Research

By the time you graduate with a postgraduate degree in agriculture and related sciences, you will have the bench skills to do basic research in Agro Science. You have a management skill set to offer, and you have good communication and writing skills.  Your management skills may be enhanced by taking some management courses for postgraduates at the University you attend. Research needs strategy, so you should be able to come up with ideas for experimentation, including how to design and implement a scientific research project. 

Should you choose a career path in the corporate world, you may be hired directly as a project manager or project supervisor. You might also be hired as a salesperson or sales manager.  You would oversee a project or a group of people with the goal of increasing sales or improving processes in the field or in the manufacturing division. 

In academia, you may receive a research position in which you will work in a laboratory or in the field for a university. You could have a job position as a field research assistant or a field research officer. 

Opportunities for travel vary, but you can expect that a career in Agro Business will have you out in the fields in many cases, doing field site evaluations.  Wages are along the lines of any PhD scientist and can start as high as $50-$60,000 with room to increase your wages rather rapidly. 

This career has a combination of bench science and field science that covers large aspects of animal, plant and food science.  New developments in genetic engineering have created new niches for those individuals interested in being on the cutting edge of Agro Business.