Senior in countryside next to cows in a pasture

Where to meet?

Clarion Congress & Hotel, Cosmos 3B


Vaughan Higgins
Vaughan Higgins


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Convenors: Associate Professor Vaughan Higgins (University of Tasmania, Australia); Dr Jérémie Forney (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland); Professor Michael Carolan (Colorado State University, USA); Associate Professor Steven Wolf (Cornell University, USA); Dr Laurens Klerkx (Wageningen University, The Netherlands); Dr Kelly Bronson (University of Ottawa, Canada)

Objectives: The WG engages directly with conference theme (1) Innovation, Artificial Intelligence and Digitisation, and specifically ‘technology’. It does so through the following objectives:

  • Investigate the human and non-human relations through which digital agriculture is assembled as an object and vehicle of rural and food governance.
  • Investigate the challenges and opportunities posed by digital agriculture in creating more sustainable rural and food futures.
  • Explore the ways in which digital technologies are implemented/adopted in agricultural and food practice within and across different geographical regions and rural industries, and the implications for rural social relations and environments.

Following the conference, the convenors intend to develop and submit a journal themed issue proposal based on the papers presented in the WG (and other invited papers if required). A longer-term aim of the WG is to develop international research collaboration amongst sociologists conducting research in digital agriculture.

Topic: Digital agriculture refers broadly to the application as well as integration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for improving efficiency, productivity and sustainability in agricultural production. These technologies include precision farming equipment such as sensors, robotics, drones, global positioning systems (GPS) and the use of Big Data. Such technologies have been forecast as being the solution to the problem of how to produce more food for a growing world population whilst protecting the environmental resource base upon which agriculture depends. However, to date, there has been little critical sociological analysis of digital agriculture and its implications for rural and food sustainability. The purpose of this Working Group is to critically examine the relationship between digital agriculture and rural and food sustainability. We specifically invite papers that:

  • Unpack the meaning of ‘sustainable’ rural and food futures in the context of digital agriculture;
  • Explore how digital agriculture is assembled as an object and vehicle of sustainable rural and food governance;
  • Examine the ways in which digital agriculture intersects, and is constituted through, other processes of rural governing such as financialization, standardization and neoliberalization;
  • Historicize contemporary debates and update sociological analysis of digital agriculture in relation to analyses from the 1990s (e.g., Wolf and Wood; Wolf and Buttel);
  • Investigate the possibilities for contestation, resistance, and alternative ways of organising/performing the relationship between digital agriculture and rural and food sustainability.
  • Provide detailed case studies of how digital agriculture is implemented within specific regions and/or industries; and,
  • Develop new or novel ways of conceptualising the relationships and tensions between digital agriculture and rural and food sustainability.


The Working Group is sponsored by RC-40 and the ESRS Research and Study Group “Digital Agriculture and Smart Foodscapes”.

Format: Our preferred format is a traditional workshop. However, depending on the level of interest in the WG we may consider other formats.


Session # Session title Presenters
Session 1 Enacting and adapting digital agriculture technologies on-farm Hahn et al
Higgins et al
Lioutas et al
Session 2 Responsible innovation and the development of digital agriculture Brunori et al
Jakku et al
Session 3 Institutions, intermediaries and networks in the governing of digital agriculture Bechtet
Di Bianco
Fielke et al
Session 4 Human-non-human assemblages and the implementation of digital agriculture Klauser
Soraa and Vik
Session 5 Digital agriculture and the future of farming: competing visions of sustainability Straete et al
Boyce et al