Advanced Certificate in Agriculture (Alternative Agriculture)

Solid training program for working in alternative areas of agriculture as a technician or manager. Learn sustainable practices. Useful for farm managers, technical representatives, trainers and consultants.

Course CodeVAG054
Fee CodeAC
Duration (approx)900 hours
QualificationAdvanced Certificate

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Become Skilled in Modern Farming Practices

Traditional farming practices have often left a legacy of damaged land through non-sustainable practices.

This course is aimed at people who wish to farm in ways that ensure land retains is useability through wise use of resources. 

Get ahead of the rest by planning for the future and making a difference.


Learn to Integrate Sustainability, Organics & Permaculture

Calling on innovative leaders who are prepared to meet the challenges of world-wide environmental degradation caused by broad-acre, chemical-based farming practices.

Agriculture today is a highly competitive, global market. Many traditional forms of agriculture are becoming more difficult to operate competitively, particularly within developed countries. Even in the most competitive economies, some agricultural enterprises still remain not only viable, but highly profitable. Success may be gained by value adding, or perhaps by filling a market niche not able to be readily filled by international or mass market competition.

This is course provides a solid foundation for people wishing to work in alternative areas of agriculture at a technician or management level; in positions such as a farm manager, technical representatives, trainers or consultants.

The looming food crisis has been created in part by energy-consuming, broad-acre systems that rely heavily on chemical inputs. These systems are environmentally destructive and need to be urgently dismantled and replaced by healthy, environmentally sustainable, alternative farming systems.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Advanced Certificate in Agriculture (Alternative Agriculture).
 Farm Management BAG104
 Sustainable Agriculture BAG215
 Organic Farming BAG305
Stream ModulesStudied after the core modules, stream modules cover more specific or niche subjects.
 Engineering I - Machinery & Equipment BSC105
 Soil Management (Agriculture) BAG103
 Workshop I BGN103
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 3 of the following 42 modules.
 Alternative Energy VSS102
 Animal Anatomy And Physiology (Animal Husbandry I) BAG101
 Biochemistry I (Plants) BSC102
 Botany I (Plant Physiology And Taxonomy) BSC104
 Business Studies BBS101
 Forestry Foundations BAG109
 Herbs for Home Gardeners AHT108
 Horse Care I BAG102
 Plant Selection And Establishment BHT107
 Research Project I BGN102
 Workplace Health & Safety VBS103
 Animal Diseases BAG219
 Animal Feed & Nutrition (Animal Husbandry III) BAG202
 Animal Health (Animal Husbandry II) BAG201
 Aquaculture BAG211
 Calf Rearing BAG207
 Cut Flower Production BHT221
 Engineering II - Engineering Applications BSC205
 Farm Tourism BTR205
 Forage Management BAG226
 Fruit Production - Temperate Climate BHT218
 Fruit Production - Warm Climate BHT217
 Goat Production BAG223
 Horse Care II BAG204
 Irrigation -- Agricultural Irrigation BAG213
 Natural Health Care for Animals BAG218
 Nut Production BHT219
 Pasture Management BAG212
 Permaculture Systems BHT201
 Pigs BAG209
 Plant Protection BHT207
 Poultry BAG208
 Research Project II BGN201
 Workshop II BGN203
 Advanced Permaculture BHT301
 Agricultural Marketing BAG304
 Agronomy BAG306
 Agronomy II - Grains BAG309
 Animal Breeding BAG301
 Aquaponic Production BHT319
 Horse Care III BAG302
 Organic Plant Culture BHT302

Note that each module in the Advanced Certificate in Agriculture (Alternative Agriculture) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

Definitions of Organic Growing

Organic gardening and farming has been given a variety of names over the years - biological farming, sustainable agriculture, alternative agriculture, to name a few. Definitions of what is and isn't 'organic' are also extremely varied. Some of the most important features of organic production, as recognised by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), include:

  • Promoting existing biological cycles, from micro-organisms in the soil, to the plants and animals living on the soil.

  • Maintaining the environmental resources locally, using them carefully and efficiently and re-using materials as much as possible.

  • Not relying heavily on external resources on a continuous basis.

  • Minimizing any pollution both on-site and leaving the site.

  • Maintaining the genetic diversity of the area.

Practices which are typical for organic systems are composting, inter-cropping, crop rotation, fallowing, mechanical, hand weeding or heat-based weed control, green manure crops and the use of legumes to increase soil fertility. Pests and diseases are tackled with environmentally acceptable, sprays that have little environmental impact and biological controls (eg. predatory mites). Organic gardeners should avoid the use of inorganic (soluble) fertilisers, super-phosphate for example should not be used because it contains sulphuric acid, rock phosphate however is the acceptable alternative. Synthetic chemical herbicides, growth hormones and pesticides should also be avoided.  

One of the foundations of organic gardening and farming, linking many other principles together, is composting. By combining different materials, balancing carbon and nitrogen levels, coarse and fine ingredients, bacteria and worms act to break down the waste products. Composting produces a valuable fertiliser that can be returned to improve the soil. Natural biological cycles are promoted, 'wastes' are re-used and the need for external supplies of fertiliser are reduced or cut altogether.

Following are some further definitions of organic gardening: 

  "Organic Gardening is a method of growing vegetables, trees, shrubs, flowers and even lawns, without chemical fertilisers or poison sprays. You need not dig the soil, and yet you can still grow superior crops - organic means ‘like organism’. Gardening organically means treating the soil as if it is a living organism needing food, water, shelter and proper conditions.

‑ From Organic Gardening in Australia, by Roads.

  "The organic movement has its inception in the ideas and experiments of Sir Albert Howard - he noticed Indian farmers did not make use of artificial fertilisers - Sir Albert decided to use the methods of the natives, but with scientific management, to devise ways to recycle nutrients; to combine rough weeds and crop wastes in layers with high nitrogen manure making a pile which heated - resulting in multiplication of bacteria - to preserve the cycle of life by returning wastes to the soil."
‑ From Encyclopaedia of Organic Gardening, by Rodale Press.
  "Organic gardening is a collection of skills tempered with the ecological wisdom borne of experience and observation, which when applied, enhances and encourages the laws and rhythms of nature and so produce food of the highest quality".
‑ From Organic Gardening, by Peter Bennett.


Lady Eve Balfour – farmer and organic farming pioneer. Born in the U.K. in 1899 she was one of the first women to study agriculture and at the age of 21 started farming in Suffolk England. For the next 70 years she worked as an educator, researcher (The Haughley Experiment – scientific experiment into organics) promoted organic farming, and published books, such as ‘The Living Soil’ in 1942. She co-founded the Soil Association in 1946 – an organisation that promoted sustainable agriculture and organic methods . This organisation still flourishes today and is one of the principle bodies dealing with inspections of, and awarding certificates to, organic farms and small-holdings in the UK.

Sir Albert Howard – Born in the U.K. in 1873 studied botany and became a principle figure in the organic movement. He is often referred to as the ‘father of modern organic agriculture’. He worked in Asia and India as an agriculture consultant and also developed and documented organic techniques that he also promoted throughout Europe. He wrote An Agricultural Testament – a classic organic farming text and published in 1940.

Jerome Irving Rodale born in 1878 in the USA was one of the first advocates of organic and sustainable farming in that country. Initially an accountant who set up an electrical firm, Rodale was later so influenced by the work of Sir Albert Howard that he bought a farm to test Sir Albert’s ideas. From then on he actively promoted an ‘organic life-style’ and also popularised the term ‘Organic Farming’.

With Sir Albert, as associate editor JI Rodale published (by Rodale Press, Inc.), the first edition of Organic Farming and Gardening in 1942 in order, to promote organic approaches to agriculture.

Rodale believed that the health of the soil and the plants living in it depended on introduction of organic matter in the form of decomposed animal and plant waste. He was also convinced that the use of chemical pesticides destroyed soil micro-organisms. These are the very organisms that are needed to breakdown plant and animal waste into usable nutrients, that promotes healthy plant growth. Rodale too is still flourishing today in the USA.

Where can this learning program lead?

Changes in the world’s natural resources, climate and economy all have a significant effect on Agriculture.  If being part of such a complex and dynamic industry is important to you, then developing your knowledge and skills through this course is ideal. 

This course is different to many others. It goes well beyond just teaching you the basic agricultural science skills, but incorporates a learning program that gets you involved with a variety of industry professionals to establish a network of contacts. 
The relationships developed through volunteer and paid work, hobbies and hands-on work experience will put you in a perfect position to follow your career dreams.

Possible roles within Alternative Agriculture Industry are:

  • Farm Management

  • Soil Testing

  • Food Safety

  • Food Processing

  • Technical and Sales Representative

  • Rural Trainers or Consultant

  • Livestock Feed Supplier

  • Pest Management

  • State/Local Government agency positions

  • Department of Agriculture positions

  • Alternative Agriculture Research positions


We have a range of other courses

  • Available through our Microcredentials training system (LearnHowTo)
  • Shorter, less costly courses
  • Covering subjects not offered through the main ACS Distance Education curriculum

Examples include:

  • Deer Farming
  • Agroforestry
  • Fodder Trees
  • Urban Forestry
  • Growing Tomatoes
  • Many hundreds of courses


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Marius Erasmus

Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South
Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
Cheryl Wilson

Cheryl has spent two decades working in agriculture, equine and education industries, across England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. She graduated with a B.Sc.(Hons), HND Horse Mgt, C&G Teaching Cert. For several years, Cheryl managed the distance
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