What Can I Do with a Controlled Environment Agriculture Degree?
While controlled environment agriculture (CEA) has existed in one form or another for quite some time, only recently has the CEA industry become a viable career path. Whether it be new interesting technology or the need for more sustainable forms of crop production, there are many elements pushing young people towards CEA careers today.
Whether you are interested in a CEA job because of technology, science, or personal values, you might be wondering how much sense it makes to study this field at the university level. As big proponents of the CEA workforce, M&F Talent wanted to put together this brief exploration of what you can do with a controlled environment agriculture degree.
What Universities Offer CEA Degree Programs?
As the CEA industry becomes increasingly important for global food production, more universities are developing degree programs aimed directly at this exciting market. Popular options for controlled environment agriculture degree programs include:
- Northern Michigan University
- Oregon State University
- Cornell University
- University of Arizona
- UC Davis
If you are interested in pursuing CEA but are unable to attend any of these schools, don’t be concerned. You can also attend a different university and study a more traditional subject like agriculture, biology, or engineering to prepare for a CEA career.
Career Options with a Controlled Environment Agriculture Degree
If you are interested in studying the plant sciences at the university level, there is a good chance you can get a job as a head grower. In fact, managerial-level candidates with CEA experience are almost always in high demand – head growers often make six-figure salaries.
Head grower jobs are challenging because you must balance the scientific expertise needed to grow crops indoors with sound employee management skills. These positions require more than just the ability to grow plants – you also need to design workflows and SOPs to ensure smooth, lean, and profitable production. If you are interested in the best grower education you can find, UC Davis is a great choice.
If you have a knack for operations, it could be a good idea to study the business side of the CEA industry. At production facilities, general managers act as liaisons between cultivation teams and sales teams – ensuring the crops are harvested and shipped on schedule.
Since they are in charge of the daily operations of cultivation facilities, GMs often oversee quality control, employee teams, budget control, equipment maintenance, and more. They also help develop harvest and yield calendars so every team is on the same page with expected revenue, etc. Since GM roles are more operations-based, you don’t necessarily have to study CEA to get started on this career path. However, a basic understanding of the CEA industry will be quite helpful for getting a GM job.
In the event you are interested in the engineering side of CEA, there are a number of avenues you can take in the industry. On a smaller scale like electronics engineering, you can help design pieces of CEA technology like smart controllers and grow lights. On a larger scale, you can help design and manage CEA grow facilities where you integrate different pieces of equipment to create ideal environments for growing plants indoors.
While many people focus on the crop production side of CEA, the industry as we know it wouldn’t exist without skilled IT teams and engineers. With the right training, you can make a great salary with promising career progression. If you are interested, Cornell has an exceptional engineering department.
Technical B2B Sales
Most technical B2B sales jobs in the CEA industry occur between hydroponic equipment manufacturers and commercial growers. With a consultative approach, these salespeople provide complete and appropriate solutions to growers across various crop types – from cannabis to leafy greens. Common products sold in technical B2B sales jobs include horticultural lighting, greenhouse kits, water filtration, HVAC solutions, fertigation systems, and much more.
Since these are technical sales jobs, they require a certain level of expertise with CEA equipment and practices. Oftentimes, people with certain personalities make the shift from cultivation jobs to B2B sales to fill these roles. With hands-on experience in CEA grower jobs, these salespeople can more easily identify customer pain points. Since technical B2B sales jobs require both CEA knowledge and business acumen, you can get this type of training via multiple avenues in college.
While head growers are focused on the actual commercial production of crops, plant scientists operate a bit more behind the scenes. Generally, plant scientists study different crops to uncover ways to make CEA production more profitable. In other instances, plant scientists might also study the nutritional value and chemical makeup of different crop types.
By researching how different plant species behave in unique cultivation environments, plant scientists can create ways to grow crops of better quality and improve yields. In other instances, plant scientists might study ways to grow crops with fewer inputs like soil, fertilizer, water, and electricity. If you are interested in working as a plant scientist, the University of Arizona is a great option.
Talk to M&F Talent About a Controlled Environment Agriculture Degree
As one of the leading recruiting agencies in the horticulture space, M&F Talent has seen first-hand the demand for skilled candidates with BA degrees in CEA, Whether it be working a technical sales job a plant scientist position, a controlled environment agriculture degree is an investment in your future.
If you have more questions about CEA training or jobs, Contact Us today!
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