Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, Tracy House never saw a soy bean or a corn seed, much less the high tech equipment used by today's farmers. That is, until he interned with Monsanto.
"I never knew how much technology went into farming, and once I got onto that tractor it was kind of like stepping on a spaceship," he said. "And I was like 'wow,' there's a lot that goes into agriculture."
Agriculture companies like Monsanto are trying to replicate that "wow factor" many times over with recruits. Potential hires are in short supply, and some of the most coveted college graduates are being snapped up by Silicon Valley firms.
How big is the shortage? A 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University estimates that high skilled jobs in agriculture will outpace the number of college graduates qualified to fill them by 22,500 each year. While half of the job openings are in business management, 27 percent are in the highly competitive STEM space or science, math engineering and technology.
"Some of the most difficult-to-fill positions tend to be software engineers. The competition is vast," said Melissa Harper, Monsanto's vice president of global talent acquisition, inclusion and diversity. "Everyone is looking for data scientists, those are people who not only understand data but have the ability to translate it into commercial insights for farmers, and the third would be cybersecurity."