Academy for independent agronomists launched

The Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) has launched a new academy to provide technical training for its newest recruits.

The demand for independent agronomists has been growing and AICC members now provide advice for more than 40% of the UK arable area.

However, the average age of independent consultants has been creeping up and succession is a challenge that the organisation has been trying to address in recent years.

See also: Five ways to develop your farming skill set

The AICC Academy aims to put a structure in place to attract young talent and provide them with a broad skill set that enables them to inform and advise existing and new clients.

AICC chairman and Yorkshire-based consultant Patrick Stephenson told Farmers Weekly the game changer has been the rise of regional agronomy groups, with 73% of 244 AICC members now in some form of collaboration.

AICC Academy – how it works

  • Trainees must be Basis/Facts qualified
  • Candidates will be working with an established member/group
  • Modules will cover all aspects of agronomy, including crop protection and nutrition, rotations and cropping systems, management of resistance, soil science, precision farming, application technology, business management, agricultural policy and finance and AICC business support
  • Trainees will be exposed to industry partner training and networks and assisted with interpreting independent research and development data
  • All training is fully funded
  • Advanced modules will be considered after the first year of the academy

Those interested in joining the academy can contact AICC CEO Sarah Colwrick via the website for more information.

“Individual consultants have previously been unsupported, but now groups have come together, they can employ someone or take on an apprentice.

“They need people to take on or expand their acreage, but many potential candidates haven’t got the skills. It is much more than just agrochemicals now,” said Mr Stephenson.

Industry collaboration

The academy is bespoke to the independent sector and will be supported by the four largest agrochemical manufacturers, who see the sector as an important outlet for their products.

Research bodies, such as Niab Tag, and academic institutes will also assist with the delivery of certain modules.

AICC CEO Sarah Cowlrick said that each member or group chooses their own trainee and the AICC will then support them through the academy. Initially it will offer six fully funded places a year.

“Each trainee will attend a series of modules over the course of a year and will graduate as a group. We believe this will give them the technical edge to provide rounded and impartial advice to clients,” she said.

Mr Stephenson added that the recruits starting and finishing together would help instil the family values of the AICC and form a ready-made support network for when they begin their careers full time.

“To have those immediate contacts will be an advantage and each will have their individual areas of expertise for the others to call on when required.”

Technical approach

Oxfordshire-based adviser Sam Clarke joined the AICC two years ago having previously been through farming giant Velcourt’s management training programme and, more recently, a trainee agronomist with Agrovista.

Velcourt is renowned for its high-quality training, he said, and he believes that the AICC Academy will be held in the same esteem in the agronomy sector.

“In my experience, distribution agronomy training is based around four days’ sales and one day of technical training, but this will be all technical, which will set it leagues apart,” said Mr Clarke.

NOVEMBER
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