Now as a fully-fledged Agronomist I am appreciating the graduate trainee academy more than ever, as the skills and experiences I have built up over the last three years are really paying dividends.  

After graduating from Harper Adams, I joined Bartholomews in July 2015, starting with twelve months in the seed department where originally, my focus was on certified cereal, oilseeds and pulse production. I passed my APHA Crop Inspecting Course, enabling me to examine C1 crops in the field and establish whether they’re suitable for C2 multiplication. My focus naturally changed with the season as the small seeds side of the business kicked off. Responsible for maize, grass seed, gamecover, root crops and cover crops – this area of the seed business really tested my ability to approach each situation with an open mind and to gather the required information before making a decision. Responsibilities ranged from variety and product selection, stock and sales management to marketing and promotional campaigns. This diverse range of responsibilities has given me the product knowledge and commercial confidence in the seed sector which I feel is vital for my career at Bartholomews.

In July 2016 I joined the crop marketing department where my role and responsibilities changed. During this twelve month period I assisted the trading and laboratory team, involved in a range of logistics and execution in both domestic and export markets. In the first six months I was in charge of our grain sampling which included looking after six grain samplers stationed across the south of England, organising their day to day sampling jobs, ensuring our customer’s grain was sampled efficiently and in a timely manner, giving our customers and grain traders accurate grain quality information. This was a fantastic experience where I developed both people management and logistical skills. During the latter six months I was responsible for all of the domestic grain fixings, matching our purchases and sales contracts across the south of the UK. During this period I learnt about reasons behind global market fluctuations, fundamentals and technical’s, how the exchange rate and supply and demand can affect our UK market prices. During this period I gained extensive commercial awareness which has greatly improved my general understanding of the UK arable market.

In July 2017 I joined the crop nutrition department where I spent six months learning about the commercial and technical aspects of crop nutrition, from soil sampling to processing orders to product sourcing. I spent time with our experienced crop nutritionist writing nutrient management plans and establishing the nutritional requirements of all types of cropping and how to maximise our own fertiliser blending facility to optimise efficiency for growers. This practical and commercial mix has given me an excellent crop nutrition grounding which enabled me to successfully pass my FACTS qualification during the winter of 2017.  

In January 2018, I joined the crop protection department. This was the final department of my graduate trainee programme and the department I wanted to pursue a career in. My duties ranged from, warehouse stock control, processing purchase and sales orders to technical and practical trials execution with a range of crop walking responsibilities all in order to get an appreciation for the practical and logistical processes. This was thoroughly enjoyable and in July 2018 I passed by BASIS exam in Crop Protection.

The passing of my BASIS exam signalled the end to my graduate program which has put into a much better position to succeed out the in the field than I ever would have thought and I’m sure will aid me in my career for years to come as the role of an agronomist is extremely diverse, with an ever changing agricultural industry.

Richard Harris