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Emma Jakku, Simon Fielke, Justine Lacey, Aysha Fleming, Bruce Taylor

Topic: Responsible Futures: Navigating Digital Technology Transformations in Australian Agriculture


Responsible Research and Innovation; Co-innovation; Digitalisation; Agricultural innovation systems; Digiscape


Digital agriculture poses both opportunities and challenges for the creation of more sustainable rural and food futures.  The promise of digital agriculture is that advances in new forms of information and communication technologies can be linked and combined to provide a “new generation” of agricultural tools, which will drive improvements in productivity and efficiency while reducing the risks and impacts associated with agriculture.  The Digiscape Future Science Platform (FSP), an integrated programme of Research & Development within the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) that seeks to facilitate digital transformation of Australia’s agricultural industries and land sector, is one example of the significant efforts internationally to develop and implement the tools to realise the transformative potential of digital agriculture. However, there are also significant socio-ethical challenges associated with the evolving digitalisation of agriculture. The Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) framework provides one way to address such challenges, acknowledging the power of research and innovation to create the future and opening up a dialogue about what sort of futures we want to encourage or avoid.

This paper uses four RRI themes – anticipation, reflexivity, inclusion and responsiveness – to reflect on how the RRI approach can help navigate the opportunities and challenges associated with the digitalisation of agriculture, building on Eastwood et al. (2017) and Rose and Chilvers (2018). We draw on empirical insights from interviews and surveys with researchers, engineers and designers involved in the Digiscape FSP.  We consider how the RRI approach converges with existing principles in innovation theorisation, including co-innovation and strategic niche management, to identify recommendations for creating socially acceptable and trusted governance responses that would mitigate risks and guide the development and implementation of digital agricultural into the future.


Eastwood, C., Klerkx, L., Ayre, M. and 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

Rose, D. and Chilvers, J. (2018) Agriculture 4.0: Broadening Responsible Innovation in an Era of Smart Farming, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 2:87, doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2018.00087

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