Agricultural/horticultural consultants advise farmers, growers and organisations on business, production and land management solutions.
Agricultural/horticultural consultants with less than five years’ experience usually earn
$50K-$85K per year
Agricultural/horticultural consultants with more than five years’ experience usually earn
$85K-$150K per year
Source: AgFirst Consultants NZ, 2019.
Pay for agricultural/horticultural consultants varies depending on experience and whether they work in the agriculture or horticulture sector.
- Agricultural/horticultural consultants with less than five years' experience usually earn between $50,000 and $85,000 a year
- Agricultural/horticultural consultants with more than five years' experience usually earn between $85,000 and $150,000.
- Senior agricultural/horticultural consultants can earn bonuses, or a proportion of the income they generate for the business.
- Self-employed agricultural/horticultural consultants' hourly rates range from $100 to over $150 an hour. Some earn more than $150,000 a year.
Source: AgFirst Consultants NZ, 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay 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 farm management systems
- assist farmers and growers in developing and implementing business plans
- advise on or oversee budgets, cashflow and production targets for clients
- research and report on factors that affect crop production, pasture growth, and animal breeding
- 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 pests and diseases and natural disasters such as floods
- provide advice on compliance with current legislation such as the Resource Management Act
- prepare property and environmental management reports for clients.
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
- knowledge of current government and council regulations and legislation.
All the stats, Excel skills, report writing, soil and plant science, financial skills and mapping skills that I learned with my Bachelor of AgriScience have been helping me with every major project I have done.
- may work irregular and long hours
- 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?
How did you start your career as a horticultural consultant?
"I went to university and got involved in running the horticulture club and university events such as open days."
"I had an interview late in my third year for AgFirst Consultants. I was offered the job, and started out with the technician team. I took fruit maturity samples, monitored irrigation probes and visited cool-stores. In May I started as a horticulture consultant."
What special training or qualifications did you need to get your job?
"I got a Bachelor of Agricultural Science majoring in horticulture."
"I have since taken more courses in nutrient management in order to deliver farm environmental management plans."
What are some things you like about your job?
“I like that it's very interest-driven and that I can add value to the horticulture sector. If you can provide advice that is of value, people will pay fairly and that allows you to work on what you’re passionate about."
"It’s also flexible. I can have a two-hour lunch break if I want. I just tell the team, and make the time up somewhere else."
What advice would you offer a young person wanting to be a horticulture consultant?
"Get involved in clubs and institutes that relate to the sector. Don’t be afraid to apply for scholarships while studying. DO IT – there are so many great jobs here!"
Agricultural/horticultural consultant video
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.
To become an agricultural/horticultural consultant you usually need a Bachelor's degree in one of the following:
- agricultural or horticultural science
- environmental science.
A driver's licence is usually required.
- Massey University website - information on Bachelor's degree in agricultural science
- Lincoln University website - information on Bachelor's degree in commerce (agriculture)
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter further training. Useful subjects include agricultural and horticultural science, biology, business studies, chemistry and maths.
Agricultural/horticultural consultants need to be:
- able to build and maintain relationships with a wide range of people
- good communicators, with listening and public speaking skills
- hard-working, friendly, patient and able to inspire confidence
- good negotiators
- skilled in analysis and decision making
- skilled in planning, organising and problem solving
- able to work under pressure with good time management skills.
Employers everywhere, but especially for this job, love when you can show you’re good with leading and helping people as this is a large part of the job.
Useful experience for agricultural/horticultural consultants includes:
- work on farms or orchards
- sales, marketing or other work dealing with customers or clients
- work within the agribusiness sector
- work in an agricultural or horticultural research institution or laboratory.
Agricultural/horticultural consultants need to be reasonably fit and healthy as their work includes walking around farms and orchards.
Agricultural/horticultural consultants may be registered with the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management (NZIPIM) as farm systems certified consultants.
- New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management website - information on registration and certification
Find out more about training
- Primary Industry Training Organisation
- 0800 208020 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of agricultural/horticultural consultants
Chances of getting a job as an agricultural/horticultural consultant are good due to:
- growth in the agricultural and horticultural sectors
- more consultants being required to service clients because of growth and change within the sectors
- a shortage of skilled workers
- increased vacancies because of retirement and promotion.
Demand is likely to increase as farming and orchard systems become more sophisticated and farmers will need independent expert advice from agricultural/horticultural consultants.
According to the Census, 999 agricultural consultants worked in New Zealand in 2018. Over 1200 environmental consultants were also employed for the same period, although many of them work outside of the agricultural and horticultural sectors.
Global trends influencing demand for specialist consultants
In the future, jobs in the agricultural and horticultural
sectors will be more specialised than before. Reasons for this include:
- emerging, sophisticated technologies
- a growing market in Asia for products
- critical issues around food safety, biosecurity, sustainability, the environment and animal welfare.
Therefore, there is high demand for skilled consultants who can provide independent, qualified advice and analysis in these specialist areas:
- nutrient budgeting and planning
- farm and orchard environmental plans
- resource consent applications
- water quality monitoring and laboratory testing
- wastewater and effluent testing and application modelling
- geographic information system (GIS) mapping.
Types of employers varied
Agricultural/horticultural consultants can work for a range of organisations, including:
- agricultural and/or horticultural consultancy firms
- government agencies such as Pamu (Landcorp)
- iwi and Māori farming businesses
- large businesses that own, manage or lease orchards or farms
- rural servicing firms and fertiliser or dairy companies
- specialist agricultural companies such as those involved in animal breeding or research.
Many agricultural/horticultural consultants are self-employed.
- Allen, J, managing director AgFirst Consultants NZ, careers.govt.nz interview, September 2019.
- Beehive.govt.nz, 'Plan to Strengthen Primary Sector Workforce' (media release), 29 October 2019.
- Chapman, M, 'Skilled Job Creation Crisis', 31 October 2019, (www.hortnz.co.nz).
- Horticulture New Zealand, 'Annual Report: 2019', 31 March 2019, (www.hortnz.co.nz).
- Ministry for Primary Industries,'Food & Fibre Skills Action Plan 2019 –2022', accessed October 2019, (www.mpi.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, ‘2018 Census Data’, 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Agricultural/horticultural consultants who work for companies may progress to supervisory or management roles, or start their own consultancy business.
Most agricultural/horticultural consultants specialise in one area. For example, agricultural consultants can specialise in dairy, sheep or beef farming, and horticultural consultants in a particular fruit or vegetable crop. However, consultants are increasingly working across both sectors, specialising in areas such as:
- environmental planning
- irrigation and water quality management
- infrastructure planning and management
- financial and insurance management
- legislative advice about resource management and consent
- strategic business planning, budgeting and financial reporting.
With more experience and training, agricultural/horticultural consultants may become agricultural/horticultural or environmental scientists, financial advisers, management consultants, farmers/farm managers or orchard farmers/managers.
Last updated 15 June 2020