Is big data for big farming or for everyone? Perceptions in the Australian grains industry
Fleming, AJ and Jakku, E and Lim-Camacho, L and Taylor, B and Thorburn, P, Is big data for big farming or for everyone? Perceptions in the Australian grains industry, Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 38, (3) Article 24. ISSN 1774-0746 (2018) [Refereed Article]
Continued population growth and land intensification put increasing pressure on agricultural production and point to a need for a ‘step change’ in agriculture to meet the demand. Advances in digital technology—often encapsulated in the term ‘big data’—are increasingly assumed to be the way this challenge will be met. For this to be achieved, it is necessary to understand the ways that farmers and other industry stakeholders perceive big data and how big data might change the industry. It is also necessary to address emerging moral and ethical questions about access, cost, scale and support, which will determine whether farms will be able to be ‘big data enabled’. We conducted a discourse analysis of 26 interviews with stakeholders in the grains industry in Australia. Two main discourses were identified: (1) big data as a technology that will significantly benefit a few larger farms or businesses—Big Data is for Big Farming—and conversely (2) big data as a way for every farmer to benefit—Big Data is for Everyone. We relate these findings and the literature on adoption of technology and social studies in agriculture to the potential of farmers to embrace big data, from basic concerns about network infrastructure through to more complex issues of data collection and storage. The study highlights that there are key questions and issues that need to be addressed in further development of digital technology and big data in agriculture, specifically around trust, equity, distribution of benefits and access. This is the first study of big data in agriculture that takes a discourse analysis approach and thus interrogates the status quo and the prevailing norms and values driving decisions with impacts on both farmers and wider society.
digital technology, discourses, farmer views, values, risks