By Sheryl Brown
At the start of her career, Emma Bell has already seen the huge opportunities and career paths available in the agricultural industry.
Now a product specialist for PGG Wrightson Seeds, the 26-year-old never anticipated this would be the role she would end up in, let alone love.
“If I’d seen a job like this when I was a student I don’t know what I would have thought of it.”
When she missed out on making it into the second phase of the vastly competitive veterinary science degree at Massey University, Emma cross-credited to complete a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in agriculture without any firm ideas of where she would end up working.
“I thought you either ended up banking or a fertiliser rep and I didn’t really want to do either of them.
“But there are so many opportunities from an agricultural science degree.”
After graduation, even with her degree under her arm, stepping into the work force and trying to land a first job was a daunting prospect, she says.
She spent a few months back on her parents’ sheep and beef farm at Rangiwaea, close to Taihape, before she saw a job as an analyst for NZX Agri in Feilding.
‘I’ve been really fortunate in terms of moving around jobs and having the opportunity to step up.’
Although it was hard to pull herself away from the farm and working outside, for which she has a strong passion, the job ticked a lot of boxes.
“I was so lucky to get that opportunity to get a foot in the door.”
The role involved writing Farm Gate and sheep and beef reports through which she established great contacts and networks in the industry in the 12 months she was there. She also gained valuable experience writing reports, something she puts to use regularly in her current role.
“That’s a skill I don’t take for granted. I’m often writing reports on new trial data.”
After meeting PGG Wrightson livestock agent Sam Wright, she made the move north to the Waikato where she landed a job with PGG Wrightson Seeds as a forage agronomist looking after trials in the North Island.
Emma has been able to cover several roles and advance her career in the three years she has been with the PGG Wrightson Seeds team. She moved into an area sales role to cover for a colleague for 12 months, which saw her covering from Te Awamutu to Kaitaia working with rural merchants.
“That was a challenge. I never thought I would have liked sales, but I treated it like a technical support role.
“I’ve been really fortunate in terms of moving around jobs and having the opportunity to step up.”
Her current role is a product specialist. For young people a product specialist might not sound the most exciting job, but she is working with the latest in plant genetics and development and no two days are the same, she says.
Her responsibility is to champion the new products being trialled and released to the market. She co-ordinates the onfarm trials of the new products and visits those farmers weekly for updates. She is responsible for providing technical information, writing reports and working with the marketing team to launch commercial products as well as upskilling staff and retailers on new products.
She often travels to Christchurch to meet with the research and development team including the plant breeders and in-house vet Charlotte Westwood, who gives a great crossover to the animal nutritional aspect of plant species.
Working with those people on a regular basis has been an amazing learning opportunity to upskill and further her own knowledge, she says.
With PGG Wrightsons Seeds working alongside as a partner to the Owl Farm Demonstration Farm in Cambridge has also been a fantastic opportunity, Emma says.
They have not only being able to do a pasture renewal project on a commercially operating farm, but it’s also developed her own skill set presenting at field days.
Field days usually have a good turnout of people and Emma sometimes has to cope with different opinions and plenty of questions from the audience.
“It’s definitely put me outside my comfort zone, but it gets easier every time. Sometimes it’s good to be chucked in the deep end.”
Emma and Sam both have a passion for sheep and beef and the end goal is definitely to move back to the country and own land one day. Emma usually has a life plan she likes to stick to, but she is currently embracing where the opportunities in the industry are taking her.