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Clarion Congress & Hotel, Cosmos 3B


Áine Regan
Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin, Ireland

Topic: A Qualitative Study Exploring Conditions, Capacity and Willingness to Embed Responsible Research and Innovation Principles in “Smart Farming” in Ireland

Keywords: attitudes; digital agriculture; responsible research and innovation; smart farming; socio-economic impacts.


Technological innovations by their very nature are designed to solve problems; however, in providing solutions they also shape certain future social realities at the expense of others[1]. Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) has been proposed as a governance framework to guide the development of digital agriculture based on a shared understanding of values amongst multiple actors. Framed around four main principles – anticipation, inclusion, reflexivity, and responsiveness – RRI can help support the responsible development of digitisation in agriculture by anticipating and responding to possible tensions between techno-scientific progress and social, ethical, moral and cultural issues. Research suggests, however, that ‘readiness’ to embed RRI within digital agriculture remains relatively low[2]. In the current study, qualitative research was carried out with key governance actors in Ireland to explore the suitability of existing conditions and the capacity and willingness of key actors to embed RRI principles within research and innovation in ‘smart farming’. 21 semi-structured, one-to-one interviews were carried out with key governance actors, including representative of the farming sector, natural and social sciences, ag-tech industry, financial sector, and policy and government. The analysis explores the manner in which interviewees discussed the impact of digital technologies on society and rural environments, specifically focusing on their attitudes towards and suggestions for anticipating and responding to identified issues. Participants held different views on the processes and mechanisms required to anticipate socio-economic impacts, to include multiple actors in decision-making, and to embed responsiveness into the research and innovation process. Positive views were evident, but not universal, in the sample with respect to ensuring reflexivity in research and innovation processes. Drawing on the findings from this study, consideration is given to the likely barriers and facilitators which may be presented when preparing to embed RRI principles within research and innovation for digital agriculture.

[1] Bronson, K. (2018). Smart Farming: Including rights holders for responsible agricultural innovation. Technology Innovation Management Review, 8(2), 7-14.

[2] Eastwood, C., Klerkx, L., Ayre, M., & Dela Rue, B. (2017). Managing socio-ethical challenges in the development of smart farming: From a fragmented to a comprehensive approach for Responsible Research and Innovation. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-017-9704-5.

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