My daughter is very environmentally aware, enjoys biology and is considering a horticulture degree programme. What types of careers are available for graduates in this area – and are there degree-level courses you would recommend?
Horticulture is a really interesting area that is receiving greater attention due to increased focus on the environment and sustainable food production.
Graduates in this area are employed in a wide range of roles due to the range of subjects typically studied as part of a horticultural programme (biological sciences, business, sustainability related modules, landscaping, etc); the fact that graduates complete practical components during their degree with potential employers; and the increase in demand globally for plant-based protein.
Horticulture is often grouped into two categories: environmental horticulture and sustainable food production.
Environmental horticulture is essentially producing plants to improve landscapes and the quality of people’s lives by reducing pollution, cleaner air, greening and cooling of cities, improving biodiversity and habitats for wildlife and horticultural therapy.
Sustainable food production focuses on developing food without damaging our natural resources.
Science and innovation are the foundation of sustainable and resilient food systems and there is lots of research and development taking place including the growth of microgreens, hydroponics and vertical farms to ensure food is produced as efficiently as possible, often close to large urban centres to minimise food miles and the potential for spoilage and waste of perishable products.
In the laboratory, scientists are developing exciting new varieties that are resilient to extreme weather patterns, such as flooding and global warming, that also have the ability to remove more greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere.
Some examples of roles occupied by horticulture graduates in Ireland include: horticulturists, horticulture inspectors, postharvest physiology, landscape designers, sports turf consultancy, growers, food logistics, food waste, research and development, organics, nursery stock advisors, technical and management positions, vertical farm managers, new product development and horticulture promotion with agencies such as Bord Bia.
The great thing about horticulture is that there are courses available from degree to PhD level.
University College Dublin offers a bachelor of agricultural science in horticulture programme and an MSc in horticulture; there are also PhD opportunities available.
The minimum CAO points in 2021 were 440 and one laboratory science subject is required in addition to Irish, English and maths at a minimum grade 06/H7. There are also access routes on lower points for students from under-represented backgrounds.
There is an honours degree (level 8) course offered by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Co Antrim and ordinary degree (level 7) courses at Waterford Institute of Technology (including an option via the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin) and CAFRE.
There are also a wide range of options available at certificate (level 5) and advanced certificate (level 6) nationally through Teagasc Agricultural Colleges, National Botanic Gardens, FET colleges and others. Many different application routes are also possible with the various providers.