Meet the TELUS Agriculture team members who are helping our customers create a more sustainable food future.
Today we profile Andrea Bilodeau, a Senior Agrologist based in central Alberta. Her passion for soil and growing things blossomed into a career in agrology, where she combines data, science, technology and agronomic practices to help our farming customers plan and optimize their crops.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? I have worked for Decisive Farming for almost five years. My family recently moved to the Alberta countryside and we’re trying to take full advantage of the space we have. Outside of work, I love to garden and my family enjoys camping in the summer with our large extended family. This winter, I took up cross country skiing with an old pair of skis I bought years ago. It’s been fun for me and my family and good for my mental health to get outside to enjoy the winter weather. Next year I might try the real groomed trails now that I have figured out how to stay upright (mostly)!
How did you get started in agriculture and food production? My first agriculture job was a voluntary position in Africa over 20 years ago. I was ill prepared for that job and the rigours of living so far from home all alone, but it did pique my interest in soil and growing things. I returned home and built up savings to go to the University of Manitoba to get my Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. My classes and professors very much influenced where I landed up in this industry.
What’s your role at TELUS Agriculture? My son is seven and he thinks my job is to play with dirt – he is not far off! I work with our customers to develop fertility plans for their farms to achieve the best return on investment for their unique farm situation. These plans are based on soil tests (science) and traditional agronomic practices, as well as a large amount of data from variable rate technology. My goal is to collaborate with our customers to provide the best value that I can.
What does a typical work day look like for you? A typical day includes taking phone calls from customers and territory managers, reviewing soil tests and working on fertility recommendations. Once I complete a first draft of fertility plans, I forward it to our customer with a comprehensive description and summary. Working with teams of territory managers and customer service reps, we follow up with the customer to ensure their confidence and comfort. I do tend to push the boundaries and suggest that customers think outside the box a bit, but the goal is always for them to understand and be excited about the year and the crops they’ll grow. From my experience I know that if we can involve our customers in the process and they feel invested, then learning and receiving real value is much more successful.
What's the best career advice you received? When I graduated there were limited agriculture positions in Manitoba. So I took advice from a boss I had as a summer student who said to look for a job – regardless of location – and to learn and grow from it. I was hired in Alberta in an entry-level position and intended to stay for two years. That was 15 years ago.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get started in agrology or the industry? To succeed in my position, as in anything in agriculture, you need to have a passion for the soil and a genuine care for the producers we work with. This will always lead you down the path of ongoing learning and growing. This is the very best part of my job.
The agriculture sector is growing and evolving at a rapid pace, fed by field research and technological advancements. There are so many opportunities and paths to take – if you are looking for a challenging and fulfilling career path there is no better choice.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about the agriculture and food industry and how do you respond? That farmers are not serious business people, as well as misconceptions around GMOs, organic food and pesticide use. All these issues require careful thought, patient listening and open-minded learning on both sides of the debate. Farmers wear many hats and are extremely skilled – you would be hard pressed to find another profession where you have to know a bit about mechanics, construction, agronomy, GIS, grain marketing and accounting. Farmers care a great deal for the land they farm, which was also likely farmed by their parents and grandparents. They are doing their very best for the next generation and looking for the tools to ensure their family farm remains sustainable and safe in a rapidly changing and fast-paced agriculture industry.
What are you most excited about as part of TELUS Agriculture? As I continue to learn about our organization and see the potential synergies within our group, I look forward to the future. Our leadership at TELUS Agriculture and Decisive Farming has worked hard to ensure we all are included in the direction. Watching the brand move to TELUS Agriculture has really been a pleasure. This is a group of companies that was strong as individuals, but are much stronger together.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Be kinder to yourself, let the small stuff go and take more chances!
What's your favorite food? If I could close my eyes and have exactly what I want to eat right now it would be my mom’s lasagna. She makes the very best there is and it's always a bit different!