Graduate Stories - Sales Agronomist Nick Brennan, Walgett NSW

Nick Brennan joined Nutrien Ag Solutions in 2016 as part of the Graduate Program, he now works as a Sales Agronomist in northern NSW.

What's your job about?

Nutrien Ag Solutions is Australia’s leading agribusiness service provider. Within my role as an agronomist I am an advisor to broadacre cropping farms on how best to grow a vast range of crops including wheat, chickpeas and cotton. Currently I advise over 180,000 acres of cropping land in the Walgett region of North West NSW. 

The basis of the role is in problem solving for clients. Dependent on the time of year and climatic conditions, my job may involve working an annual crop rotation plan, assessing planting conditions, prescribing fertiliser, assessing insect/weed/disease pressure on crops and advising the best solution to these problems. Keeping up with scientific research and development in the agricultural space is also an important part of the job to help provide the most up to date relevant information to clients. 

What's your background?

I grew up in Bowral in the Southern Highlands of NSW. I completed all my schooling locally and after finishing Year 12 in 2011 I spent a year working at a large secondary boarding school in East Midlands England as a PE assistant and boarding master. This was a great year between school and further studying at the University of New England (UNE) Armidale where I studied Rural Science. Although not from a farming background myself, I had a strong interest in agriculture as my mother’s side of the family are all heavily involved in ag across cropping, livestock, grain handling and fertiliser. My degree gave me time learning about all these different parts of the ag sector, but it was the cropping side that really took my interest. 

During my final year of study I attended the annual careers fair with a vast array of potential employer present. After a busy day networking, I came across the then Landmark stand and asked about any job vacancies they may have. Long story short I had an interview the next week in Walgett and started the Monday after my last exam. My first few months were spent alongside a local private agronomist learning the ropes which has proved an invaluable resource of knowledge I would have struggled to gain on my own as we entered a 3-year period of drought and no cropping. Due to Nutrien’s expanse of stores I have been able to spend time in different areas of NSW and Victoria learning from some of the company’s highest regarded agronomists. This was fantastic to get insights into what makes them knowledgeable not only in Agronomy but client liaising, branch reporting and research.  

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, so long as you are keen to learn, enjoy problem solving and have an eye for detail there is no reason why anyone can’t be successful as an Agronomist.  You don’t have to be from a farm to be involved in agronomy or agriculture however a base knowledge gained from a University degree in an agricultural study is essential.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

The fact that at harvest you can physically see the rewards of your effort and planning throughout the growing season and the huge influence that small decisions I make can have on the yield and profit for clients. I also regularly get flown around in a private helicopter to check crops when it is too wet to drive.

What are the limitations of your job?

You must develop a trusting relationship with clients as they hold you to your word as what you say directly influences their livelihood. Farms can range from small family operations to multi-million-dollar corporate enterprises so knowing how to offer advice to the whole financial spectrum is a skill only learnt with trial, error and time. You must be physically fit and capable of long hours in a vehicle driving between properties. 

Three pieces of advice for students considering a career in agriculture:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every week I would face a new question/way of doing something that is outside the box and it is often answered through research, calling others with expertise or brainstorming with clients.
  • Be Authentic. Don’t attempt to be something that you aren’t in life and work.
  • Don’t assume you are the most knowledgeable person in a conversation – listen and learn from others.