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Digital technologies in food and agriculture: merging STS with Critical Agrifood Studies 
Fabio Gatti (Wageningen University)
Oane Visser (International Institute of Social Studies (ISS))
Katharine Legun (Wageningen)
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Oane Visser (International Institute of Social Studies (ISS))
Fabio Gatti (Wageningen University)
Katharine Legun (Wageningen)
Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This panel aims at gathering contributions exploring the ethical and societal dimensions of the digital transformation in agriculture and the rural areas. The session will support novel conversations about the practical, material, and political enactment of digital technologies on the farm.

Long Abstract:

In the past years, digital technologies have entered the rural space, promoted by proponents as a triple-win solution capable of achieving, at the same time, food security goals, reducing farming’s environmental impact, and enhancing farm profitability or - in the global South - lifting farmers out of poverty. However, with the exception of some sociological inquiries in the Global North (North-America, Australia, New Zealand, Western-Europe), empirical evidence regarding the social, environmental, and political implications of such technological transformation on actual farming practices and rural activities on the ground is limited.

This panel aims at filling this gap. By bringing together scholars working at the intersection between Science and Technology Studies, Food Studies and Critical Agrarian Studies, we aim at gathering contributions that scrutinize the grand narratives around the forthcoming agricultural ‘revolution’ generated by Agriculture 4.0. Key areas of focus include the emergence of precision agriculture and its socio-technical implications, the challenges of data analytics in optimizing farm management, the politics of digitalization within international development projects, and the rise of AgriTech startups.

Moreover, we want to critically examine the ethical and societal dimensions of these transformations, and address especially (but not only) issues of data ownership, monetization of farm data, the impact of digital technologies on local and traditional knowledge, the attitudes of farmers towards digital innovations, the impact on farm labor, human interactions with farm robots, and the potential commodification of agricultural practices facilitated by such technological innovations.

The session explicitly welcomes a wide range of contributions looking at different geographical contexts, across Global North and Global South, as it aims at bridging the divide between studies focusing on high-tech forms of digital agriculture (mostly located in the Global North) with relatively simpler forms based on cell phones and digital extension tools, rapidly spreading in the Global South.

Accepted papers:

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3