Christopher Nash is currently Digital Product Manager at Small Robot Company part of the emerging AgriTech sector working to feed the world in a more sustainable way. He graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn campus in BSc (Hons) Environmental Science, 2018.
What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?
Summer 2018: Internship at Small Robot Company (SRC) Remote sensing/Geo spatial analysis. I was given the opportunity to learn mechatronics, robotics and camera systems (all of which I use daily now). I used my Exeter Uni dissertation to get me the internship and the Career Zone helped me sort out my CV for my masters, and indirectly to get me the internship too.
2018/2019: MSc Agricultural Technology and Innovation at the Royal Agricultural University. The application of tech in Agriculture as well as a broad brush stoke of the state of the world’s agriculture systems as they stand. For my thesis I built a small robot the used NIR cameras to take images of crops to understand their health and nutrient requirements.
“The Agriculture sector is currently in a state of massive growth. Agriculture can help the world go beyond net zero and as a result the job market is exploding.”
2018/2019: AgriTech engineer – SRC hired me part time during my masters and full time after to progress their robot and AI capabilities. This was a mechatronics focused role which in hindsight I probably wasn’t entirely suited for, but I was excited to learn and explore how engineering and remote sensing/geospatial analysis can go hand-in-hand.
2019/2021: Assistant manager at FarmED. I got the unexpected opportunity manage a Regenerative Farm, the education centre and team that were there. I was able to control the crop rotation across the site and input systems to build farm biodiversity whilst delivering events to a wide guidance (schools, academics, unis, farmers) on sustainable food production. This job swung me way back into Agriculture and mainly involved a lot of networking and farm management. I really enjoyed this job and made me want to become a farmer if I ever got the opportunity properly. I still help out at FarmED at the weekends in a volunteering capacity as I like the outdoor work.
“…many of the jobs are in small companies wanting to make a name for themselves, so if you are enthusiastic, want to learn and develop yourself at the same time then these companies are great places to work.”
2021: Mechatronics Devlopment Engineer at B-hive innovations. Geospatial and data science focus in the AgriTech world for delivering data insights on potato crops to farmers. I ran field trials, got commercially qualified as a drone pilot and built a robot. I took this job as I was missing the AgriTech aspect of my work.
2021/2022 Innovation Scientist/ Research Engineer at SRC. Exploring how to further AI and robot capabilities, blue sky thinking, agronomy aid, business use cases/feasibility studies, part of the sales team, running field trials, fund bid writing and delivering presentations at external events. This opportunity came up as my old boss gave me call and asked if I would consider coming back to SRC. It never hurts to leave a job on good terms as you never know if they’ll want you back!
2022 to present. Digital Product Manager at SRC.
“It never hurts to leave a job on good terms as you never know if they’ll want you back!”
Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?
I always tried to pursue a career that enables me to learn, challenges me and enables me to explore topics that I have found interesting rather than having a direct goal/job title for my career so far. I’ve always tried to take the opportunities when they arise and as a result I have changed jobs and been able to progress my interests further.
I like where I have ended up as my day to day is never the same and I get to work across the whole company with lots of different people. I think Innovation is definitely a sector I want to stay in as I get to think about the solving problems and developing new technology a lot. Combined with Agriculture which means I get to spend a lot of time in fields and talking with people that grow the food on our plates, doesn’t make for a bad career path I think.
When I was working as Innovation Scientist/ Research Engineer at SRC an example week could be –
- Monday: Writing a white paper for the marketing team and doing data analytics.
- Tuesday: Robot demo day to potential customers where I had to deliver presentations and sell robots.
- Wednesday: Fund bid writing/planning for a new potential bid.
- Thursday: Meetings with companies in USA or Chile or Netherlands over how we can use their tech on our robots.
- Friday: Research day on a topic that I want to explore and how we can look to solve the issues connected to it.
“My most used skill from Uni relates to presentations and gaining the ability to speak to others with perceived confidence. I hate doing presentations but Uni taught me a lot about how to do them and how to present myself.”
What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?
The cross between Bio-science and Geography. I wasn’t much of a human geographer, so when I ran out of physical geography and environmental science specific modules I was able to go to the Bio-science modules to choose. The course is nice and broad which means you can choose to specialise if you want in later years or keep it broad if you aren’t sure what you want to do and try lots of things.
What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?
My most used skill from Uni relates to presentations and gaining the ability to speak to others with perceived confidence. I hate doing presentations but Uni presentations taught me a lot about how to do them and how to present myself, and I think that that enabled me to get my first job and have a job that involves sales now. Similar to this, the GIS skills I gained as part of my course and the academic scrutiny of researching, reviewing and then writing literature are core skills that I use daily.
What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?
The Agriculture sector is currently in a state of massive growth. Agriculture can help the world go beyond net zero and as a result the job market is exploding. Agriculture is not a sector I thought I would end up in (I thought I would be on a research ship in the Antartica by now). You need to be open to potential opportunities due to Agriculture also adopting new tech and ‘Big data’ AI. It is also following the cliche of there will be jobs in three year’s time that don’t exist now. But this is also providing the opportunity to enter the space as a data scientist, product manager, concept designer etc.
What is nice as well as many of the jobs are in small companies wanting to make a name for themselves, so if you are enthusiastic, want to learn and develop yourself at the same time then these companies are great places to work. Key areas to concentrate on for Agriculture are: Remote sensing, Biologic/ecology of plants and countryside biodiversity, and Mechatronics/AI interests.