The value of tertiary education to agribusiness

Professor Hugh BigsbyWhile the land provides the practical touches to a career in the primary sector, Professor Hugh Bigsby believes higher education is crucial to reaching the next level in agribusiness.

The Dean of Lincoln University’s Faculty of Agribusiness and Commerce says while it may not be for everyone, the decision to move towards tertiary education is dependent on “where in the portfolio of career opportunities you see yourself sitting”.

“University or tertiary education is still the main pathway for anyone wanting to work in financial services such as banking and insurance, farm consulting or in the global supply chain, such as people working in overseas marketing or branding,” he says. “We have a number of degrees in our programme that position people in that value chain for offshore consumer markets as well as on the farm.

“There’s still a huge demand for the people who have got the kind of advanced skills in understanding farm systems and where technology and the future is going. The agri industry is going through this huge, quite quick change with technology around software sensors and real time data information, so even the people who are going to be farm managers or working on farms are increasingly needing to be more tech savvy.”

Hugh says success for the primary sector is not just dependent on learning about technology – it is about how we learn about technology. “It (technology) changes so fast – really what you want to be doing is positioning people so that no matter what the change, they can adapt to it.”

Hugh says Lincoln prides itself on providing applied programmes for students. He says the goal is to produce graduates that not only can enter any work environment and make themselves productive, they also have the foresight to keep informed about advances that can be beneficial to their business.

“Adaptability has to be the key thing, because things change so quickly that if you’re not reasonably quickly adopting new technology in a way that continues to keep you in business and allows you to move ahead of the curve, you slowly disappear, I think,” he says. “And the reality is it is not specifically just the ag sector, although that’s where we’re training most students for. Things move very quickly – we’re just trying to future proof people.”

Hugh’s advice for any student tossing up between staying on the farm or entering tertiary education is to look at the opportunities further education can open up.

“Even if your goal is to go back on the farm, you’ll likely make a much better business person and get exposed to things that might be a little different to what you’ve experienced on-farm,” he says. “We try to provide opportunities for our students throughout the value chain, including going offshore, and expose them to things that broaden horizons and allow them to think differently.”