Thousands of job openings where you don’t have to “get your boots dirty” are being created by Brazilian agribusiness. And qualified people are lacking. The rapid digitalization of the countryside, combined with new demands linked to sustainability, has created a shortage of professionals in a sector that already accounts for a third of job vacancies in the country.
On large farms alone, by 2030 the projected deficit reaches 64% for technicians in digital agriculture; that is, of every ten vacancies offered, less than four will be filled. The study “Emerging Professions in the Digital Age: Opportunities and Challenges in Professional Qualification for a Green Recovery”, carried out in 2021 by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) in partnership with Senai and UFRGS, pointed out that in two years eight careers agribusiness would generate 178,800 opportunities, but there would be only 32,500 professionals available to fill these vacancies. A gap of 82% which, even in the medium and long term (ten years), should remain relatively high, around 55%.
For SENAI’s Superintendent of Professional and Higher Education, Felipe Morgado, forecasts are not inevitable nor should they create a scenario of discouragement, but of opportunities. “Senai alone currently has 2.5 million students enrolled. There is this gap in agribusiness, but it is possible for Senai and Senar to quickly meet this demand. The institutions of the professional sector are moving and starting to offer these courses. We also need an awakening of the worker and that farmers seek to incorporate these new technologies”, he evaluates.
Skills range from using drones to understanding telemetry
Among the main digital skills required in new agricultural jobs are the operation of drones to inspect crops and spray pesticides; the use of telemetry to collect crop data, assess soil conditions, distribute fertilizers, analyze and treat pest and weed infestations; and monitoring the environment through sensors and applications that collect weather data such as wind, temperature and humidity.
By bringing technological advances, as a matter of competitiveness, the industry itself seeks to train its customers’ employees and their technical assistance. Cláudio Calaça Júnior, product marketing director for the manufacturer New Holland, highlights that the paradigm shift from mechanics to electronics has already started to occur ten years ago. More recently, automation and telemetry have come with a vengeance. “For these new positions, data analytics and data engineer, there is starting to be a bigger share, both in industry and in the field. A machine in the field with telemetry is transmitting a lot of information online during the entire period of operation. We need professionals in an intelligence center who are able to carry out this analysis so that the solutions are effectively applied”.
On larger farms, permanently allocated digital agriculture technicians are indispensable, but for small and medium-sized producers, hiring a back-to-back service may be an option. The trend is pointed out by agronomist José Carlos, a partner at MB Agro. “We have service providers and startups that support farmers and that should create a lot of jobs. On farms, we will increasingly have the office guy. Is the person who works at the back office, which does remote planning and monitoring, with fewer and fewer people in the field. It is qualified work, which pays better, and the person does not necessarily have to suffer under the sun”, she argues.
Growing demand for managers in agribusiness
From the plow to no-till, from notebook notes to tablet projections and tables. It was not just the way of dealing with the land that changed, but the entire process of planning, managing and controlling production and marketing. Due to this demand for more managers in agribusiness, since 2014 the National Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA) has maintained its own faculty. These are distance courses, such as Agribusiness Management (3 years), Environmental Management (2 years), Human Resources Management (2 years) and Management Processes (2 years). “A significant number of students are doing their second degree, because they felt this gap and seek to access the managerial and technological area to update themselves”, says Alberto Santos, coordinator of Faculdade CNA.
The study on emerging professions in the digital age advocates “immediate actions to take digitalization to the countryside, enabling more efficient crops that require smaller areas and less soil wear”. Among the short-term actions is the need to update the curriculum of courses such as agronomic engineering, so that they can train digital agronomists. According to a study by Embrapa (2020) and UFSM (2020), Brazil will need 74,600 digital agronomists to meet the demand of 40% of large farms by 2030.
In this wave of changes, the survey predicts new opportunities for women from small properties, who “can focus on digital marketing for the flow of production or on the use of applications to control purchases of inputs, control of precipitation, crop planning, among others. other relevant factors, but still lacking in the small farmer”.
Search for professionals who refine the data collected in the field
The rural sector has the advantage of requiring, as a priority, only an update or supplementation of digital content in existing training, through specific courses or postgraduate courses. Santos, from CNA, points out that for some time now, the technologies embedded in the machinery have brought a vast amount of data, which can end up being useless if there is no one to refine and interpret them. “This data is available, sometimes in a disaggregated form, and needs to be organized, with easy-to-understand graphics and tools. And the professional needs a multidisciplinary training to not only collect data. Today, the employability of those who qualify is very high, there is great demand in the area of management for the Midwest, mainly Goiás, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul”, he reports.
If, in addition to mastering digital agro tools, the student or worker has training in environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, he will certainly be in the sights of head-hunters. A study by the consultancy Michael Page reveals that this year alone there has been a 50% increase in the search for professionals linked to ESG. Among the most sought-after profiles are CFO and ESG director (salaries from R$35,000 to R$50,000), head of sustainability (R$20,000 to R$25,000), project manager for carbon efficiency ( R$18,000 to R$22,000) and an ESG specialist (R$10,000 to R$15,000). What is behind this demand, according to Stephano Dedini, Michael Page’s director for agribusiness, are “the demands of investors and society for sustainable businesses, operations and production chains. It’s a cross-cutting view of ESG across the company.”
In addition to the high-skill ESG roles listed above, see what other emerging professions in the agricultural sector are.