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Bridging the skill gap in data science: Meet George Wager

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16 February 2021

With a huge skill gap surrounding data science in the UK, as well as a shift in understanding the importance of data in the agricultural sector, it has never been more important to engage with statistics and work towards a future involving agri-tech and smart farming. Data provides a broader view of the sector, underpinned by relevant evidence.

George Wager, 22 from Stourbridge, completed her BSc (Hons) Agriculture degree with Harper Adams, providing her with a foundational understanding to make her an excellent candidate to study MSc Data Science in Global Agriculture Food and Environment.

George’s interest in data has a particular emphasis on food security and managing global supply chains to improve sustainability. Further understanding data science will enable George to take real world problems and formulate a practical solution based on data.

She said: “I chose this course because it was an exciting opportunity. As the only course of its kind in the UK and a great university at the forefront of agriculture, I knew this was the right choice for me.

Technology is going to be a big part of agriculture and this course is a great chance for someone like myself, with a background in agriculture.

“It is an intense learning curve and a real challenge but life is all about challenges! The feeling when you nail a topic which at first felt impossible, or you managed to create your own piece of code that successfully analysed a piece of data is an incredible feeling.

Upon graduation I hope to have the full skill set to utilise data within the agriculture sector to provide solutions that will pave the way to global food security.

Learning to understand data more fully came as a result of George’s undergraduate placement year, sparking an interest in bovine genetics which influenced her BSc Honours Research Project, studying fertility in dairy cows.

George explained: “The data set needed to be analysed in RStats, a statistical programming software.

“When trying to teach myself RStats, I searched for additional resources that would be able to help me. I quickly came to realise the lack of resources out there, and how much of a unique skill it is to be able to analyse complex data sets. While learning the basics of RStats was challenging, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“During my learning process, I expressed my interest in data science to Edwin Harris. He then shared with me information about the MSc Data Science for Global Agriculture, Food and Environment. The course is the first of its kind in the UK. It gives individuals like myself, who have studied an undergraduate degree in an agricultural-related field, the opportunity to explore data science. Having both a passion for numbers and agriculture, I felt this course was a perfect fit.

“Many farmers will be investing in new technologies; therefore, it is paramount that the industry has the right skills to utilise the data that is collected from these new emerging technologies and allow farmers to continue to thrive in this ever-changing world.”

Supported by the Clyde Higgs MSc scholarship and the Harper Adams Club Postgraduate scholarship, George is enjoying her studies so far and is continuing to grow her skill set.

With a real passion for the importance of data and the continued need to put sustainably sourced food on the table, George said: “So much is changing and we are taking small steps to a better world - who wouldn’t want to be a part of this new era?

The UK agricultural industry is a truly spectacular thing that is constantly changing and striving to be the best it can beIt is courses like these that contribute to maintaining sustainable food production – and we all know that you can't put a price on that!

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