This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Agricultural/horticultural consultants provide professional advice to farmers and growers on how to improve the profitability, efficiency and sustainability of their farm management systems. They also help to develop business and financial plans.
Agricultural/horticultural consultants with less than five years’ experience usually earn
$45K-$80K per year
Agricultural/horticultural consultants with more than five years’ experience usually earn
$80K-$150K per year
Source: NZ Institute of Primary Industry Management, 2016.
Pay for agricultural/horticultural consultants varies depending on experience and whether or not they are self-employed. Within the bands below, agricultural consultants are likely to earn more than horticultural consultants with the same amount of experience:
- Agricultural/horticultural consultants with less than five years' experience usually earn between $45,000 and $80,000 a year.
- Those with more than five years' experience usually earn between $80,000 and $150,000.
As they become more senior, agricultural/horticultural consultants are able to earn bonuses, or a proportion of the income they generate for the business they work for.
Self-employed agricultural/horticultural consultants charge an hourly rate, which can range from $35 to over $100 an hour. Some earn more than $150,000 a year.
Source: New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management, 2016.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Agricultural/horticultural consultants may do some or all of the following:
- advise farmers and growers on how to improve the profitability, efficiency and sustainability of the farm management system
- assist farmers and growers in developing and implementing business plans
- advise on or oversee budgets, cashflow and production targets for clients
- research factors that affect crop production, pasture growth and animal breeding
- collect data and samples relating to factors that affect production, including produce, feed and soil
- advise farmers and growers on fertiliser and nutrient use to improve productivity and environmental performance
- investigate, plan and advise on methods for coping with the effects of natural disasters, such as floods, and pests and diseases.
Skills and knowledge
Agricultural/horticultural consultants need to have:
- in-depth knowledge of the area of agriculture or horticulture they work in
- knowledge of farm or orchard systems management
- competency in business planning and financial management
- understanding of production methods and how to apply these to real-life situations.
Agricultural and horticultural consultants:
- may work irregular and long hours if self-employed or new to the role. They can be particularly busy in peak farming and growing seasons
- work in offices and on clients' farms or orchards
- work in all weather conditions
- may travel within New Zealand or overseas to attend conferences or visit clients, factories, banks or export marketing firms.
What's the job really like?
Despite growing up on a sheep and beef station near Wanaka, Randall Aspinall still went to university and did an agricultural science degree at Lincoln University before getting a job as a farm consultant.
"The qualification is important because it gives you the science and research side to fall back on. It teaches you how to learn, so you can pick things up more quickly."
Knowing what will work
Randall says that being able to think strategically is a vital skill for farm consultants.
"You have to look at farming systems and suggest improvements, know how to make the changes, and know that they will work. Or if you don't know, say that, and then find out. Honesty with clients is crucial."
Getting businesses into shape
Randall's clients range from farmers wanting one-on-one help, to larger discussion groups. He says watching his clients improve their businesses makes the job really satisfying.
"The discussion groups can be the most rewarding. It's great when it's a nice, sunny day, there are good clients who are all keen to learn and you have a day where you cover a whole lot of stuff and make some good progress. Those are the best days – where you feel like you have achieved something and you've enjoyed it."
Erica talks about her role bridging agriculture and the environment - 2.06 mins. (Video courtesy of Ministry for Primary Industries)
Mostly the work is focused on sustainability of farm systems, and that’s everything from economics, through to social sustainability and environmental. And that’s a skill set that I’ve got a specialty with.
My role is very much about bridging between environment and agriculture.
For most of the farmers that I work with, it’s not actually something they see as a gap either. So they’re like me – strong links to the land and it’s very important to them that they manage the land sustainably.
Where often the challenge is, is understanding where the new pressures are, how new science is influencing policy makers and perhaps what that means on farms.
As a consultant I do a good range of sitting at my desk tapping out reports, and doing really detailed analysis and reading scientific papers, as well as getting out on farms and looking at animals and having conversations with farmers.
I really enjoy getting out there and digging holes and moving sheep and yelling at dogs, and everything else. It’s just a lack of time, mostly.
My advice for young people interested in a land-based career, so it could be environment, it could be agriculture. It could be anything that’s linked to that. So vets, finance, accountants, bankers.
My advice is to keep your options open. Follow what you’re passionate about. Make sure that you’re not following the easy route necessarily, but think about what works for you, what drives you, and what value you can add to the industry.
We need, in this sector, talented people across the whole spectrum. And there’s huge opportunities for pretty much any career.
If you want to work hard and achieve things, this is the place to be.
Unless you have extensive experience in a relevant field, to become an agricultural or horticultural consultant you need a Bachelor's degree in one of the following:
- agricultural or horticultural science
- natural resources and environmental studies
You also need a driver's licence.
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter further training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, physics, English and maths, and agricultural and horticultural science.
Agricultural/horticultural consultants need to be:
- patient, friendly, empathetic and able to gain the trust of people
- good communicators, with listening and public speaking skills
- good negotiators
- skilled in analysis and decision making
- well organised, with good time management skills.
Useful experience for agricultural/horticultural consultants includes:
- work on livestock farms, orchards or vegetable farms
- sales, marketing or any work dealing with customers or clients
- work within the agribusiness sector such as in banking, fertiliser companies, or industry organisations like DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand
- work in an agricultural or horticultural research institution or laboratory.
Agricultural/horticultural consultants need to be fit and healthy because their work includes walking around farms and orchards to check livestock and/or horticulture crops.
Find out more about training
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of agricultural/horticultural consultants
Employers report that agricultural/horticultural consultants are in shortage due to:
- people retiring from the job faster than they can be replaced. More than a third of agricultural/horticultural consultants are nearing retirement age, which means employment opportunities are likely to keep rising until at least 2020
- competition for graduates, with many agricultural and horticultural science and commerce degree graduates being hired by banks and accountancy firms offering them higher starting salaries.
Demand is likely to rise further because, as farming and orchard systems become more sophisticated, farmers will increasingly need independent expert advice from agricultural/horticultural consultants.
Types of employers varied
Agricultural/horticultural consultants can work for a range of organisations, including:
- agricultural and/or horticultural consultancy firms
- rural servicing firms and fertiliser or dairy companies
- large businesses that own, manage or lease a number of orchards or farms
- specialist agricultural companies such as those involved in animal breeding or research
- government agencies such as Landcorp.
Many agricultural/horticultural consultants are self-employed.
- Macaulay, S, chief executive, New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Agricultural/horticultural consultants who work for companies may progress to supervisory or management roles, or start their own consultancy businesses. Some consultants may become farmers, farm managers or orchardists.
Most agricultural/horticultural consultants specialise in one area. For example, agricultural consultants can specialise in dairy, sheep or beef farming, and horticultural consultants can specialise in a particular fruit or vegetable crop. However, consultants are increasingly working across both sectors, specialising in areas such as irrigation, financial management, environment, animal nutrition, and farm infrastructure.
Last updated 15 December 2017