If you have got a passion for crops and want to be on the front line of variety developments then a job as a seed product manager could be the one for you.
You will need a sound agronomic knowledge and an eye for what makes a good variety. As a lot of your time will be spent in discussions with farmers and suppliers, excellent communication skills are also a must.
Farmers Weekly asked Wynnstay’s Jonathan Baxendale to give an insight into a day in the life of a seed product manager.
- Name: Jonathan Baxendale
- Job title: Combinable seed product manager
- Company: Wynnstay
How would you sum up your job?
As it says in the job title, I am responsible for managing Wynnstay’s combinable seed profile – including wheat, barley, oats, oilseeds and pulses – choosing and marketing varieties.
What does this involve day-to-day?
On a day-to-day basis, I spend time organising seed production with growers, as well as handling general enquiries on everything from prices to availability. I also spend time making sure I keep up to date with the latest varieties and any legislation changes (particularly on seed treatments) that are likely to affect growers.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I always wanted to be involved in agriculture, given my background on an arable farm, and naturally have always had a keen interest in varieties. I get a real buzz out of finding out what is on the horizon that can help farmers to maximise their yields.
What can be the downsides?
Like with everything in farming, when things happen that are out of your control it can be disheartening. For example, in this job in particular, a wet harvest can affect seed germination and suddenly you can be very short on a popular variety.
What percentage of your job is office-based?
That is really dependent on the time of year. In the spring and autumn I need to be in the office as much as possible to be on hand for grower’s enquiries. Outside of these times I am out quite a lot, meeting with farmers and suppliers, so it really is very season-dependent.
What skills and qualifications are essential to the job?
While not essential, having an agricultural background or a sound knowledge of the industry can be very beneficial. You need to be a self-motivated individual and have a passion for the work and the industry. Since you spend a lot of time liaising with farmers and suppliers, it is also really important to have good people skills.
What experience did you have before starting?
I did a degree in Agricultural Business Management at Newcastle University, which gave me all the foundations for the business side of things. While I was studying, I had a summer job at a seed merchant to gain experience. Before coming to my current role, I also worked for Elsoms Seeds as a seed specialist and then moved into the role of energy and forage crop manager.
What tips or advice would you give to someone wanting a similar role?
Get as much work experience as you can – it is definitely worth contacting local seed merchants and showing your interest. Going to see variety trials will also help to keep your knowledge up to date.
Give us an idea of salaries in the sector?
Salaries start around the £30,000 region for a seed manager, with significant opportunity for growth depending on experience and performance.
What is the best bit of career advice you have ever been given?
Even if an issue arises, try not to burn bridges in terms of relationships – it is a very small industry!