Agriculture Technician


As an agriculture technician, you help scientists and farmers develop better ways to manage plant and animal farms. You provide technical expertise and support to crop and livestock producers in a variety of capacities. For example, you might work directly with farmers and ranchers on production or you might work with other agriculture professionals researching new crop varieties, testing new pesticides and fertilizers, researching crop and livestock diseases, or new production methods. Agriculture technicians work closely with producers and researchers to support the productivity and sustainability of Canada’s agriculture industry.

At a glance

Imagine standing in the middle of a large tomato field on a crisp spring day, rows and rows of bright green vines stretching dozens of metres on all sides. You are an agriculture technician for this district and you are here to examine the crop for signs of pests. A large part of your job each spring and summer is to examine fields like this one to determine what types of weeds and insects are present in each field. In doing so, you and your team can advise farmers on the exact type of pesticide they should be using on their fields, as well as the proper dosage. Not only does this save money for the farmers, you are also contributing to sustainable agriculture practices. By ensuring only the necessary pesticides are used in the proper dosages, you help to eliminate overuse and reduce the risk of soil and water contamination and the growth of resistant species. As one of the district's agriculture technicians, you are very familiar with the different crops grown in the area and you know what to look for when inspecting for pests. Conditions this spring have been ideal for infestations of spider mites, and you've found evidence of the tiny creatures in the other three tomato fields you have visited this week. You start your inspection by looking for signs of mites with your magnifying glass, taking careful notes of what you see. In addition to the mites, you look for other common pests, such as worms and aphids, and different weeds that might be growing in the field. You won't be checking every tomato plant today, but rather a random sampling of plants at various locations within the field. You will gather data on the weed and insect species you see and take this information to the district's agronomist. You will then discuss the findings with the agronomist, and together you will prepare a list of recommendations for the farmer, advising on the proper insecticide to eliminate the spider mites and the proper herbicide to control the weeds.

Job duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an agriculture technician:
  • Inspect production facilities and crop health, and collaborate with agronomists, agrologists, and/or agriculture specialists to make recommendations to producers.
  • Design and run plot experiments to compare crop varieties and test the effects of various treatments on growth and yield.
  • Interpret aerial photographs and prepare maps showing soil and vegetation patterns.
  • Perform chemical analyses of soil and plant material and culture micro-organisms and potential pathogens for study.
  • Assist in the cultivation and/or breeding of new crop varieties.
  • Assist in planning and implementing soil remediation measures.
  • Operate and maintain a variety of electronic and mechanical equipment and instrumentation and laboratories for teaching and research.
  • Perform experiments, record and analyze data, and present findings.
  • Assist in writing summaries and reports and presenting research results.

Work environment

As an agricultural technician you will be working in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to: In the lab:
  • Processing samples and specimens collected in the field
In the office:
  • Doing paperwork and entering and analyzing data for reporting
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
  • Researching new technology and advancements in agriculture
In the field:
  • Inspecting and testing crops and soils and problem solving with producers
  • Maintaining experimental and demonstration plots and recording data
  • Operating machinery and electronic equipment

Where to work

  • Farms and farming cooperatives
  • Agriculture and food processing research and development firms
  • Agriculture technicians work in a variety of locations, including:
  • Agricultural chemical or fertilizer companies
  • Federal, provincial/territorial, or municipal government departments
  • Agricultural, biological, and engineering consulting firms
  • Food inspection agencies

Education & requirements

If you are a high school student considering a career as an agriculture technician/technologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Calculus
  • Geography
  • Computer Science
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as an agriculture technician/technologist is a technical diploma. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an agriculture technician/technologist, the following programs are most applicable:
  • Agriculture
  • Agronomy
  • Soil Science
  • Horticulture
  • Biology
  • Botany
In most provinces, it is not necessary to be certified in order to work as an agriculture technician or technologist, though some practitioners may choose to become certified or apply for professional status. The requirements for certification vary among provinces.

Salary

An entry to junior level agriculture technician, recently graduated from the two year college program, makes an average of $32,000 per year in Canada. An agricultural technician with a university degree makes an average of $44,000 per year. With over seven years of experience, an agricultural technician can make an average of $68,000 per year.

Role Model

Patrick Ménard

The most interesting part of his job for Patrick Ménard is the "human element." "We develop a relationship with our clients, the farmers, on the job. Also, I enjoy being able to work outdoors, especially during the summer months." "My job is very diverse and changes with the seasons. In the summer we work mostly outdoors, checking the state of our clients' (the farmers) fields and working on conserving resources-preventing soil erosion. During the winter we work closely with farmers to provide them with farm-produce plans. This takes about three days to one week for each client." "We work on the computer using air photos of the client's land to determine the quantity of land surface, the contours of the fields, the exact location of fields, etc." Patrick's job focuses on change over the long term. "We like to take a slow approach to change, using testing and training to help bring changes in farming habits about. We check fields for erosion that is caused by the slope or angle of the fields, and based on that we suggest new ways of working the soil." To maintain the soil, Patrick encourages farmers to use proper aeration techniques, keep residues on the ground and use different planting techniques. Patrick trained for his position through a three-year college/CEGEP program and studies at an agricultural college in Quebec.