Agricultural engineer
US Navy 060427-N-1825C-001 Combat Systems Sciences and Technology Program Naval Postgraduate student Ensign Tom Dunbar, works with an autonomous robot originally designed to maneuver in agricultural settings.jpg
An agricultural and biosystems engineer fixing an agricultural robot
NamesAgricultural engineer, agricultural and biosystems engineer
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Engineering, agriculture
CompetenciesEngineering, agriculture
Fields of
Engineering, agribusiness, farm
Related jobs
Agriculturist, farmer, farm worker, engineer

Agricultural engineering, also known as agricultural and biosystems engineering, is the field of study and application of engineering science and designs principles for agriculture purposes, combining the various disciplines of mechanical, civil, electrical, food science, environmental, software, and chemical engineering to improve the efficiency of farms and agribusiness enterprises[1] as well as to ensure sustainability of natural and renewable resources.[2]

An agricultural engineer is an engineer with an agriculture background. Agricultural engineers make the engineering designs and plans in an agricultural project, usually in partnership with an agriculturist who is more proficient in farming and agricultural science.


Irrigation canal in Pisac, Peru
Irrigation canal in Pisac, Peru

The first use of agricultural engineering was the introduction of irrigation in large scale agriculture in the Nile and the Euphrates rivers before 2000 B.C. Large irrigation structures were also present in Baluchistan and India before Christian era. In South America irrigation was practiced in Peru by the Incas and in North America by the Aztecs.[3]

The Last Furrow by Henry Herbert La Thangue
The Last Furrow by Henry Herbert La Thangue

The earliest plough was the ard or scratch-plough[4]

Settlers practiced irrigation in the vicinity of San Antonio in 1715, the Mormons practiced irrigation in Salt Lake Valley in 1847.[3]

With growing mechanization and steam power in the industrial revolution, a new age in agricultural engineering began. Over the course of the industrial revolution, mechanical harvesters and planters would replace field hands in most of the food and cash crop industries. Mechanical threshing was introduced in 1761 by John Lloyd, Magnus Strindberg and Dietrich. Beater bar threshing machine was built by Andrew Meikle in 1786.[5] A cast iron plow was first made by Charles Newbold between 17960 and 1796.[3]

Old Style Sunshine Harvester found in Henty (wine) region of NSW Australia
Old Style Sunshine Harvester found in Henty (wine) region of NSW Australia

James Smith constructed a mower in 1811. George Berry used a steam combine harvester in 1886.[5] John Deere made his first steel plow in 1833. The two horse cultivator was first about 1861.[3]

Fork hay tedder
Fork hay tedder

The introduction of these engineering concepts into the field of agriculture allowed for an enormous boost in the productivity of crops, dubbed a "second agricultural revolution" which consisted of:[6]

  1. Shift from peasant subsistence-farming to cash-farming for the market
  2. Technical changes of crop rotations and livestock improvement
  3. Labour being replaced by machinery
A cultivator pulled by a tractor in Canada in 1943
A cultivator pulled by a tractor in Canada in 1943

In the 20th century, with the rise in reliable engines in airplanes, cropdusters were implemented to disperse pesticides. Benjamin Holt built a combine harvester powered by petrol in 1911. Erwin Peucker constructed bulldog tractors 1936. Deutz-Fahr produced the rotary hay tedder in 1961.[5]

In the late 20th century, genetically modified foods (GMOs) were created, giving another large boost to crop yields and resistance to pests.[7]


Agricultural engineering has many sub-disciplines, the most common of which are listed here:

Agricultural Machinery

Main article: Agricultural Machinery

Agricultural Structures

Main article: Agricultural buildings

Agricultural Surveying

Main article: Surveying


Main article: Aquaculture

Biomechanics & Ergonomics

Main article: Ergonomics

Forestry Engineering

Main article: Forestry


Main article: Irrigation

Land Development

Main article: Land Development


Main article: Pesticide

Precision Agriculture

Main article: Precision agriculture

Soil Management

Main article: Soil management

Roles of agricultural engineers

Not to be confused with agriculturist, farmer, farmworker, or geodetic engineering.

Agricultural engineers may perform tasks such as planning, supervising and managing the building of dairy effluent schemes, irrigation, drainage, flood water control systems, performing environmental impact assessments, agricultural product processing and interpret research results and implement relevant practices. A large percentage of agricultural engineers work in academia or for government agencies. Some are consultants, employed by private engineering firms, while others work in industry, for manufacturers of agricultural machinery, equipment, processing technology, and structures for housing livestock and storing crops. Agricultural engineers work in production, sales, management, research and development, or applied science.


In 2006 Armenia's agricultural sector accounted for about 20 percent of the GDP. By 2010, it grew to about 25 percent.[8] This was and is higher than in Armenia's neighboring countries of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran, in which the contribution of agriculture to the GDP in 2017 was 6.88, 5.63, 6.08 and 9.05 percent, respectively.[9]


In the Philippines, the professional designation is registered agricultural and biosystems engineer. They are licensed and accredited after successfully passing the Agriculturist and Biosystems Engineering Licensure Examination. A prospective agricultural and biosystems engineer is required to have a four-year Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.

The practice of agricultural and biosystems engineering also includes the following:

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom the term agricultural engineer is often also used to describe a person that repairs or modifies agricultural equipment.

United States

The American Society of Agricultural Engineers, now known as the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), was founded in 1907.[10] It is a leading organization in the agricultural engineering field. The ASABE provides safety and regulatory standards for the agricultural industry. These standards and regulations are developed on an international scale for fertilizers, soil conditions, fisheries, biofuels, biogas, feed machinery, tractors, and machinery.[1]

See also

Agricultural machine as play structure
Agricultural machine as play structure


  1. ^ a b "ASABE". Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  2. ^ "Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering | Professional Regulation Commission". Retrieved 2021-05-01.
  3. ^ a b c d Davidson J.B. 1913. Agricultural engineering, Webb Publishing
  4. ^ Andersen, T.B., Jensen, P.S., Skovsgaard C.S., 2016. The Heavy Plough and the Agricultural Revolution in Medieval Europe. Journal of Development Economics
  5. ^ a b c H. Klaus, Milestones in the history of agricultural engineering, The world of agricultural engineering 2011
  6. ^ F. M. L. Thompson (1968), The Second Agricultural Revolution, 1815-1880, The Economic History Review, Wiley
  7. ^ "ASABE 100 years of innovation" (PDF). ASABE.
  8. ^ "Kocharian Orders Tax Exemption For Armenian Farmers", Armenia Liberty (RFE/RL), August 8, 2006.
  9. ^ "GDP share of agriculture by country, around the world".
  10. ^ "ASABE website". Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2009.

Further reading