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Studying Agricultural Engineering in the UK

For those with an interest in both the physical and the natural sciences agricultural engineering will be worth considering as a career choice, particularly if you have a practical approach to problem solving and like a challenge in your work.

A greater awareness of damage to the natural environment by some of our current farming methods, which are extravagant in the use of energy and degrade the soil, will demand more imaginative solutions to the problem of meeting the global demand for food, fibres and industrial organics in the future.

Agricultural engineers working in conjunction with agronomists, geneticists, microbiologists and other specialists will develop many of these solutions.

It is often the agricultural engineer who has the responsibility for bringing the results of scientific research within the reach of the farmer. Some of the new technology introduces fundamental changes to the lives of traditional farmers and their families.

This happens particularly in areas where a high proportion of the population is engaged in agriculture or where a large proportion of the income of a region is generated from agriculture.

Therefore the agricultural engineer has to be aware of the social consequences of his work.

Maintaining the worlds' food supplies is a vital and increasingly demanding job with an ever-increasing number of human mouths to feed. Agricultural engineers are involved in many interesting activities. These require a thorough training in a wide range of skills, which combine engineering, agriculture, business and social studies.

Some examples of the type of projects in which agricultural engineers are engaged are listed below:

  • The development of machines for use in crop production from soil preparation through to harvest.
  • The design of crop storage structures in which special combinations of temperature, humidity and modified atmosphere can be maintained.
  • The design of water conservation, irrigation and drainage schemes.
  • The planning of soil conservation schemes.
  • The planning of livestock buildings and the associated equipment for efficient production whilst paying due attention to animal welfare and hygiene.
  • The creation of habitats for wildlife.
  • The reinstatement of land that has been used for mineral extraction, or other industrial purposes, for agriculture or amenity use.
  • The design and development of machinery and sustainable systems for forestry.

Agricultural engineering may be studied at several levels from craft through technician, technologist to graduate and postgraduate. Courses at all levels are available in UK, the USA and many other countries.

Because of the wide variety of activities associated with agricultural engineering it is obvious that at some stage there must be some specialisation. This usually happens at the undergraduate stage when the student finds that one subject area is more interesting.

This, on graduation, can either lead to employment in the area of interest or to a specialist postgraduate course, of which there a number available.

In many cases the opportunity to study at postgraduate level does not occur until after some years in employment. This can be a very valuable aid to career development.

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