Just and equitable technology in agriculture
Technology and agriculture have a relationship spanning centuries. With every new technological innovation to agricultural production, societies have felt its revolutionary impacts in a variety of ways that are still being studied today. Ag tech development is now moving at a rapid pace with billions of dollars being invested — both progressing and disrupting nearly every sector of agricultural industries. There is an ever-expanding landscape of emerging technologies dedicated to a variety of farming concerns, including, but not limited to, maximizing yields and profitability, minimizing inputs, developing and amending seeds, monitoring crop and animal health, sequestering carbon, and managing pests. There are many ongoing and passionate debates about the role these technologies could or should be playing throughout agriculture and the rest of our supply chains, considering impacts to labor, the environment, and rural communities.
Through roundtables, events, field trips, and other programs, the Berkeley Food Institute is dedicated to providing learning and community engagement, as well as career opportunities for our students in the field of agricultural technology. We also support evidence-based, interdisciplinary research on ag tech that prioritizes sustainability for farms, communities, and the land.
- Foster interdisciplinary discussion and research opportunities amongst critical ag tech researchers, tech equity advocates, workers across the agri-food system, growers and ranchers, students, industry leaders, and other stakeholders to cultivate long-term research community partnerships that are grounded in community-based participatory research principles and practices.
- Create a space for UC Berkeley students to learn about ag tech through an interdisciplinary context and consider how their careers can be shaped by it.
- Develop student experiential learning opportunities in appropriate and equitable ag tech.
- Support appropriate technology research, experimentation, farmer trials, and equipment sharing across the UC system and the state of California.
Our current areas of inquiry within ag tech
- What does equitable and appropriate ag tech look like for farmers of all scales and backgrounds, farmworkers, and rural communities? What might it look like regionally?
- How are farmers of all scales and backgrounds, farmworkers, and rural communities engaged within ag tech research and development?
- What role can policy and higher education play within current and future ag tech innovations?
- What ag tech exists that prioritizes worker safety?
- How can we better equip and prepare our food systems workforce while automation continues to expand?
- What are some historic and unintended consequences of ag tech implementation that can be used for future ag tech assessments with respect to climatic, economic, and political potentials and limitations?
- What are the international implications of American ag tech and its guiding philosophies?
Resources for further reading
BFI represents a growing network of critical ag tech researchers, students, and advocates. Below are some research publications, articles, and other resources authored by BFI alumni, affiliates, community partners, and members of our Ag Tech Working Group.
- Baur, Patrick and Alastair Iles. “Inserting machines, displacing people: how automation imaginaries for agriculture promise ‘liberation’ from the industrialized farm.” Agriculture and Human Values, vol. 40, issue 3, pp. 815–833 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-023-10435-5
- Baur, Patrick and Alastair Iles. “Replacing humans with machines: a historical look at technology politics in California agriculture.” Agriculture and Human Values, vol. 40, issue 1, pp. 113-140 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-022-10341-2
- Montenegro de Wit, Maywa. “Can agroecology and CRISPR mix? The politics of complementarity and moving toward technology sovereignty.” Agriculture and Human Values, vol. 39, pp. 733–755 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-021-10284-0
- Nicholson, Erik and Alexia Estrada. “Op-ed: Want an Agtech Revolution? Center Farmworkers’ Expertise.” Civil Eats, January 23, 2023. https://civileats.com/2023/01/23/op-ed-want-an-agtech-revolution-center-farmworkers-expertise/
- “There’s Nothing More Californian than Ketchup.” Cal Ag Roots Podcast, California Institute for Rural Studies. January 29, 2016. https://cirsinc.org/2016/01/29/episode-1-theres-nothing-more-californian-than-ketchup/