Agricultural Engineer

Agricultural engineers apply engineering principles to agriculture, creating sustainable solutions. Their primary tasks include designing farm machinery, equipment, water management systems, and storage facilities for crops and livestock. They address environmental challenges by developing methods to minimize agriculture’s ecological footprint. Through technology, they increase the efficiency and sustainability of farming, contributing to food security and protecting the environment.

At a Glance

Imagine working as a farm equipment design engineer at an agricultural machinery company dedicated to improving farm efficiency and sustainability. Your task involves conducting field tests on an innovative tractor for enhanced efficiency and reduced environmental impact. It’s early autumn, and you, alongside your team, are in the field, ready to evaluate the tractor’s performance under actual farming conditions.

The tractor features innovative precision planting technology and an engine optimized for lower emissions and fuel consumption, addressing the critical challenge of boosting agricultural productivity while minimizing ecological footprint. During the initial tests, you discover a software issue causing irregular seed spacing—a problem that could undermine the tractor’s efficiency and environmental benefits.

With a focus on problem-solving, you collaborate with your team to analyze the malfunction. After thorough testing and adjustments, you develop a software update that resolves the seeding inconsistency. The corrected system now ensures precise seed placement and shows a reduction in fuel usage.

This successful modification confirms the tractor’s potential to transform farming practices by making them more sustainable. It underscores the role of agricultural engineers in creating solutions that balance productivity with environmental stewardship. As the testing day concludes, the team has a collective sense of achievement, knowing your efforts contribute to advancing sustainable agriculture.

Job Duties

Job duties vary from one position to the next, but in general, agricultural engineers are involved in the following activities:

  • Design, test, and implement machinery and equipment used in agricultural operations to improve efficiency and productivity.
  • Develop and manage irrigation, drainage, and flood control systems to optimize water use and protect crops.
  • Design and implement soil conservation practices to prevent erosion, maintain soil health and improve land use.
  • Analyze and improve agricultural processes, from planting to harvest, to increase yield and reduce waste.
  • Conduct assessments to determine the environmental impact of agricultural practices and develop strategies to mitigate adverse effects.
  • Design and integrate renewable energy systems, such as solar or bioenergy, into farming operations to reduce carbon footprint.
  • Enhance crop management and yield, and implement precision agriculture technologies, including GPS and remote sensing.
  • Plan and design farm structures, such as barns, greenhouses, and storage facilities, ensuring safety and functionality.
  • Research new technologies, crop varieties, and farming practices to advance agricultural science and engineering.
  • Develop and promote sustainable farming practices and technologies that conserve resources and support long-term ecological balance.


Work Environment

Agricultural engineers operate within the office, field, and laboratory. In each of these settings, individuals in this occupation carry out various duties.

The office:

  • Draft and plan agricultural structures and machinery with computer-assisted design software, aligning with industry standards and environmental regulations.
  • Evaluate agricultural practices and technologies based on field and lab data; summarize findings, make recommendations, and suggest future research directions in reports.
  • Work with engineers, scientists, and stakeholders to address agricultural challenges, ensuring projects are resource-efficient and timely.
  • Apply for grants, loans, and other financial aid to support sustainable and innovative agricultural engineering projects.
  • Ensure projects adhere to all regulatory standards, managing documentation and permit submissions.
  • Stay updated on technological and regulatory changes in agricultural engineering.
  • Conduct training sessions for staff and clients on new systems and technologies.

The field:

  • Manage the setup and monitoring of irrigation systems, drainage, and agricultural infrastructures to meet design and functional requirements.
  • Test new agricultural equipment and technologies in the field to evaluate performance and identify areas for improvement.
  • Provide technical advice to farmers and agricultural businesses on machinery use, crop management, and environmental conservation for improved productivity and sustainability.
  • Observe the impact of environmental conditions and agricultural practices on ecosystems, employing conservation techniques to protect natural resources and promote biodiversity.
  • Conduct visits to agricultural sites to assess operations, pinpoint issues, and recommend engineering solutions to enhance productivity and sustainability.
  • Oversee the construction and setup of agricultural infrastructure, ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget.

The lab:

  • Evaluate the durability, efficiency, and environmental impact of agricultural machinery materials and components in a lab setting.
  • Develop and test new agricultural technologies, such as biodegradable materials, precision tools, and water-saving devices, to ensure effectiveness and safety.
  • Perform quality control checks on agricultural products and processes to ensure they meet safety and performance standards.
  • Conduct experiments on agricultural engineering topics, aiming to enhance crop yields, pest control, and soil health.
  • Prepare and file patents for innovative agricultural technologies and methods, protecting intellectual property and promoting adoption.
  • Collaborate with universities and research institutions on projects to advance agricultural engineering, sharing knowledge and findings.

Where to Work

Agricultural engineers are employed across various sectors, encompassing government agencies, corporations, and educational institutions, such as:

  • Agricultural machinery companies
  • Agricultural research institutes
  • Government agricultural departments
  • Environmental conservation organizations
  • Water resources management agencies
  • Agricultural extension services
  • Renewable energy companies
  • Agricultural consulting firms
  • Universities and educational institutions
  • International development organizations

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are considering a career as an agricultural engineer, you should have a keen interest in:

  • Sustainable farming practices and technologies.
  • Water resource management and irrigation solutions.
  • Renewable energy sources and their integration into agricultural operations.
  • Design and optimization of agricultural machinery and infrastructure.
  • Soil conservation and the development of eco-friendly fertilization methods.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an agricultural engineer, the following undergraduate programs are most applicable:

  • Agricultural engineering.
  • Biosystems engineering.
  • Environmental engineering.
  • Precision agriculture.
  • Mechanical engineering specialization in agricultural machinery.

An undergraduate degree is generally necessary for agricultural engineers focused on modern agriculture challenges, including sustainability, resource efficiency, and technology integration. An advanced degree, such as a master's or doctoral, offers technical expertise and theoretical understanding for addressing food production, resource management, and environmental issues within the agricultural sector. These qualifications are highly regarded in both professional and academic circles. Relevant post-graduate programs include:

  • Bioresource engineering.
  • Agribusiness management.
  • Agricultural biotechnology.
  • Water resource engineering.
  • Environmental engineering with a focus on agricultural systems.

Professional designations and certifications held by agricultural engineers may include:

  • Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) License: Issued by provincial engineering associations in Canada, the P.Eng. license is crucial for engineers seeking to practice professionally. It validates compliance with national engineering standards and ethics.
  • Certified Agricultural Engineer: Offered by agricultural or engineering societies, this certification underscores specialized skills and knowledge in agricultural engineering, proving mastery of the latest technologies and practices.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Computer-aided design software proficiency
  • Geographic information system and remote sensing
  • Precision agriculture technologies
  • Irrigation and water management
  • Soil science
  • Agricultural machinery design and maintenance
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Project management
  • Data analysis and statistical software

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Problem-solving
  • Analytical thinking
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Attention to detail

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry, or take our Essential Skills courses.


Role Models

Esther Bérubé

"I wanted to go into engineering because of the variety of projects and the observable immediate impact of one’s work,” says Esther Bérubé. Esther became accustomed to variety early on. Her father was a civil engineer and the family spent years living abroad in Ghana, Venezuela, Niger, and Costa Rica. The living conditions she witnessed in these developing nations greatly influenced her career choice. "I saw a lot of people living in rapidly degrading areas.

Seeing this made me want to find a career where I could make their living conditions more stable and healthy.” Today, Esther has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and a master’s in chemical engineering and works as a junior engineer with Golder Associates in Montreal. She spends much of her time at her desk working on a project-to-project basis. However, two or three days of every month, Esther does get out in the field. Her duties there include supervising the digging of boreholes and taking water or soil samples to monitor environmental quality. "I really do enjoy being out in the field and getting my gloved hands—and safety equipment—dirty.”

In the office, Esther’s duties are varied and they include going over project designs, making calculations, and interacting directly with the client. "They (Golder Associates) are really good that way. They have their hands in so many different projects that I experience a broad range of the steps involved in assessing and treating contaminated sites.” The variety of projects also exposes Esther to a number of different professional styles. "Each project manager and engineer has a different approach,” notes Esther.

As a junior engineer in the company, she learns a great deal from this diversity. There are some drawbacks to Esther’s job. One of the largest is the quantity of information she must absorb and understand in a limited amount of time. While that is intimidating, she continues to surprise herself. "Sometimes I get off the phone with a contractor and say to myself, "Wow, I really knew what I was talking about. And to think only months ago I didn’t know any of this!”

Esther has also realized solving project dilemmas and problems are not nearly as easy in the real world. "When I was studying engineering, every question had a solution, and it was up to the student to reach it. You always knew that the information necessary to solve the problem was provided or readily available.” It wasn’t until she started her job at Golder that she realized, in the real world, every problem still has a solution, but due to constraints of time, money, and the environment, that solution isn’t always so easily reached.

Your Impact

Agricultural engineers blend engineering principles with technology to refine agricultural methods. Their goal? To solve challenges and ramp up efficiency. This role is pivotal for the environment, as it involves developing sustainable strategies that reduce resource use and pollution. These professionals are experts in crafting water management systems, conserving soil, and weaving renewable energy into the fabric of farming operations. Their work is a cornerstone of sustainable agriculture, aiming to boost productivity while minimizing the dependence on water, soil, and harmful chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides.

Economically, agricultural engineers are game changers. They not only help in reducing operational costs but also in elevating crop yields, offering a financial benefit to farmers and bolstering the economy. On the social front, their innovations can work to ensure a reliable food supply, improve food security, and raise the standard of living for farm communities.

Agricultural engineers follow sustainable practices to mitigate the ecological impact of farming. They are at the forefront of promoting biodiversity and gearing up for climate change. With a comprehensive approach that addresses the environmental, economic, and social facets of sustainability, agricultural engineers are driving agriculture toward a future that is resilient and kinder to our planet for generations to come.


Occupational Classification

Agricultural engineers are classified into the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 21399 – Other professionals engineers

What is an NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.


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