The Growth of Agri-Tech in the UK Labour Market

Published on Oct 7, 2022

Updated on May 19, 2023

Written by Rob Slane

Agri-Tech was first recognised as an industry in its own right by the Government in its 2013 document, A UK-strategy for Agricultural Technologies. Since then, a number of initiatives have followed, including the creation of four Agri-Tech centres across the country, as well as investment in a number of highly innovative Agri-Tech start-ups. In this piece, we ask what impact this relatively new sector is having on the labour market.

To answer this question, we first identified a group of occupations most closely related to the Agri-Tech sector, which we then used to glean insights on job numbers and job demand (the full list of these occupations is available in our online data tool Analyst). According to the data, there are currently around 327,600 jobs in occupations related to Agri-Tech, which is 14% higher than the 286,300 jobs back in 2012. Our trend-based projections show that the sector is likely to continue growing in the coming years, with a further 7,500 jobs expected to be added by 2030 (2.3%).

This is very interesting when looked at in conjunction with recent predictions of farming decline, such as that made by farm business consultants, Andersons, who estimated that there will be around 12,000 fewer farm businesses in the UK in 2030 than ten years prior. Putting their prediction together with our projections, it seems that whilst we can expect to see a decline in farms and farmers, it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be less farming, with the Agri-Tech industry potentially providing tools and assistance to help those farms that do survive to thrive.

Moving on to current employer demand for Agri-Tech jobs, our Job Posting Analytics data reveals a number of interesting features. In terms of sheer numbers of employer postings for Agri-Tech jobs over the last year, Greater London leads with 26,286 postings, followed by the South East (20,795) and the North West (18,857). However, when we take into account total postings in each area for all jobs, and so identify the share that relate to Agri-Tech, we get a much more interesting picture of which areas have the highest concentration in the sector:

As you can see, Greater London and the South East are actually the lowest of all the UK’s regions, with just 1.3% and 1.7% of their total number of job postings related to Agri-Tech. The regions with the highest shares are East Midlands (2.30%), Scotland (2.28%), and Northern Ireland (2.3%). Our data also allows us to drill down to much more granular geographies, and there we find that the top three local authorities in the country in terms of share of total job postings relating to Agri-Tech are Selby (4.48%), Mid Suffolk (4.23%), and Flintshire (3.98%).

We can also look at which occupations and skills related to Agri-Tech are most in-demand, which we’ve done in the charts below (you can toggle between occupations, specialised skills and software skills):

For occupations, we’ve used Lightcast’s Global Occupation Taxonomy, rather than the Standard Occupation Classification system, as it gives us a far more granular view of occupations in the labour market. The most in-demand occupation by some distance is Production Worker, which has over 105,000 postings, making up around 39% of all Agri-Tech related job postings. There are also a number of science-based occupations, such as Biologist (5,212 postings), Microbiologist (4,371) and Biochemist (1,830), along with a number of environmental occupations, including Environmental Scientist/Specialist (10,056), Environmental Technician (3,150), and Environmental Conservationist (2,333).

In terms of specialised skills, again the fact that this is a very diverse sector stands out. For example, as well as seeing low-to-medium skills such as Machinery (19,054 postings), Warehousing (16,407), and Production Line (13,972), we also see higher skills such as Biology (9,254), Data Analysis (7,353), and Pharmaceuticals (6,872).

Finally, we’ve also extracted from job postings data the software skills that employers are looking for when hiring occupations related to Agri-Tech. Many of these are very basic IT skills, such as Microsoft Excel (9,235), Microsoft Office (7,841), and Microsoft Outlook (4,229), but there are also a number of programming languages, such as JavaScript (4,405), and Python (4,203), as well as open-source programming frameworks, such as React.js (3,716), and (2,733), which is reflective of the Tech element of the Agri-Tech sector.

As the UK's Agri-Tech sector continues to grow and mature over the coming years, it will be crucial that the right skills are being taught to meet the needs of employers in the sector. The data presented above gives a small glimpse of how such insights can be used to understand the sorts of skills that are needed and where they might be most in-demand.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you identfy the labour market for Agri-Tech in your area.