Job profile: What’s it like to work for a farm tech start-up?

As the farming industry gets ever more technical, there is a need to encourage computer science graduates into this exciting, fast-paced and rapidly growing industry.

Farmers are increasingly looking for digital or software solutions to help them run their farms and businesses more efficiently.

Farmers Weekly asked software engineer Joseph Tomlinson for an insight into his job.

Name Joseph Tomlinson

Age 25

Job title Software engineer

Company Yagro, a farm inputs purchasing platform

Sum up your job in a sentence or two

I am responsible for building and maintaining the web service behind Yagro. This involves communicating with other members of the team to find out what both our farmers and suppliers need from Yagro, implementing and taking ownership for them.

See also: Job profile: What’s it like to work in poultry breeding?

What does this involve day to day?

I write code and am actively involved in the process of creating new features and designing user interfaces.

Design thinking is so rare in agriculture, but our farms respond really well to the usability and simplicity of what is a really complex piece of technology.

Recently, I’ve been working on internship programme to encourage students to consider a role in agriculture.

We recently hired our first intern from the University of Cambridge, so I am responsible for mentoring him in his role.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I love that it is so varied – both in terms of my responsibilities working at a disruptive start-up, and the fact that everyone at Yagro is so passionate about our shared goal.

One day I can be coding at my desk, and the next week I’m out in a field speaking to farmers about the benefits of the technology I am helping to build.

What can be the downside?

Yagro’s main offering is replacing manual processes with a new and awesome way of doing them online, which saves farmers time and money.

It is a unique industry, with no rule book as nobody else is attempting to do it.

Creating a polished product from scratch takes a lot of engineering effort, with constant communication between stakeholders for feedback and improvements.

What percentage of your job is office-based?

I am office-based 90% of the time, as my role is in engineering the platform and not usually customer facing.

But since we are a small company, I accompany the rest of the team to larger agricultural events to speak to farmers and increase awareness about Yagro. I also attend technical events to increase my knowledge as an engineer.

What skills and qualifications are essential to do the job?

A degree or other qualification in computing is helpful, but not essential.

Skills-wise, being a fast learner, adaptable and a problem solver is important to work in a fast-paced start-up.

Start-ups challenge the status quo and a small team needs challenging personalities and out-of-the-box thinkers.

What experience did you have before starting?

I’m from a farming background and helped on the family farm before moving away to attend university.

While studying, I undertook two technical internships and developed a prototype web app for supplying fresh local produce to universities and other large institutional catering services.

I later found a graduate role at a Cambridge-based start-up. It was in this role that I developed a passion for start-ups.

What other careers did you consider?

Marketing – my undergraduate degree was in business. Realising that my passion was really with technology that can improve day-to-day tasks, I made the switch to software engineering.

What tips/advice would you give to someone wanting a similar role?

Be persistent and obtain as much experience and insight into the industry as possible.

Knowledge, drive and ambition make you stand out from the crowd.

Give us an idea of the salary a new-starter might expect

The starting salary for a graduate is £30,000-£35,000/year.

What’s the best bit of career advice you’ve been given?

Don’t settle for a job that you’re not passionate about.