Our food system is is what makes our modern world possible by feeding a huge number of people. But it has created so many environmental problems, and social problems. Now it is helping to destroy our world, through pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and even obesity related sicknesses. Our food system is slowly destroying us and our planet.

I want to be a part of the solution. Agricultural engineers helped us grow more food. But we need a new kind of Agriculture Engineer--someone who can help cities to grow their own food. WE can’t just keep moving food around the country. People need local food! Advances like vertical farming and rainwater management can be a part of that solution. And this is just what Agricultural Engineeers do!

Wikipedia defines agricultural engineering as Agricultural engineering “the engineering discipline that applies engineering science and technology to agricultural production and processing.”

That can include a diverse range of different areas of specialization from “irrigation, drainage, flood and water control systems, to performing environmental impact assessments, agriculturalproductprocessing” There are a lot of different ways to go in this field.
Our food system produces enough for all.
Our food system produces enough for all.

Machines like this make it possible--thanks an Agricultural Engineer!
Machines like this make it possible--thanks an Agricultural Engineer!

a vertical farm--this is our urban future!
a vertical farm--this is our urban future!

Preparing for a career as an agricultural engineer starts in high school, where it helps if you excel in math, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; and science, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. These are honestly my weakest subjects, so I’m a little worried that this might make a bad start.

In college, the minimum you need for a job in this field is a bachelors degree. But most people have specialized masters degrees in one of the subfields of agricultural engineering. The Masters program at Illinois state has six different types of masters for agricultural engineers. With my interest, I’d pursue a focus in “Environmental Systems”, which includes: “Agricultural & Consumer Economics, Animal Science, Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Studies in addition to Technical Systems Management coursework.”

Of course, its not just education. According to, you have to be able to listen to the clients you work for. You need to have problem solving skills, to which you apply the general principles of engineering. You have to have math skills to use those principles. But it also takes teamwork. You have to be able to work with others to solve problems that may arise in big systems, dealing with animals, genetics, horticulture, or other disciplines. You can’t solve all the problems.

This video from Good Magazine explains how
Vertical Farms can change our urban food system
The Pay for Agricultural engineers is not the best, but the benefits are good. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the median pay is around 70k, but it starts at $42k, which is maybe enough to get by out on a farm, but not in the city. But engineers are well taken car of, and benefits include “paid vacations and holidays, health and life insurance, and pension plans.

Benefits: Engineers receive paid vacations and holidays, health and life insurance, and pension plans.

Hours and conditions:

If you like a normal work week, this job is sometimes for you. Because is there is a project to complete, you have to go all out to get it done. But its mostly a 40 hour a week, 9-5 job. (

Many of the hours worked by agricultural engineers are outside, which is great for me., But if you prefer a computer screen to a blue sky, this is not the job for you.

Job outlook:

For agricultural engineers, there’s good news and bad news in the employment outlook. The good news is that the industry is growing, as population is growing. We need to feed all those people. There are also jobs for agricultural engineers in related fields.

The bad news is that most of those jobs are not in the city. The image below shows jobs by state in this field, and as you can see, they are not hiring in NY. But thats for now. Things may change in the future. Or I may just have to create my own business. scary!

Working on contract:

Most agricultural engineers are not. paid by contract. They work for public employers like federal and state governments, as well as private corporations.

Today, most agricultural engineers work in rural areas. But that may mean there is opportunity in urban areas. If I can't get one of these jobs, I may need to work on a contract.

conclusion: why its worth it

My interest in being an agricultural engineer is based in my desire to help people. It's also about helping the earth to handle more people. That means feeding more people using less resources. Being an agricultural engineer means having a direct role in that change. Agricultural engineers helped to create our modern food system. They are the ones who can create our future solutions.
the need for more food production is clear. But how will we do it?
the need for more food production is clear. But how will we do it?

the jobs are exactly where I don't want to be!
the jobs are exactly where I don't want to be!