Priorities for science to overcome hurdles thwarting the full promise of the 'digital agriculture' revolution

J Sci Food Agric. 2020 Nov;100(14):5083-5092. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.9346. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


The world needs to produce more food, more sustainably, on a planet with scarce resources and under changing climate. The advancement of technologies, computing power and analytics offers the possibility that 'digitalisation of agriculture' can provide new solutions to these complex challenges. The role of science is to evidence and support the design and use of digital technologies to realise these beneficial outcomes and avoid unintended consequences. This requires consideration of data governance design to enable the benefits of digital agriculture to be shared equitably and how digital agriculture could change agricultural business models; that is, farm structures, the value chain and stakeholder roles, networks and power relations, and governance. We argue that this requires transdisciplinary research (at pace), including explicit consideration of the aforementioned socio-ethical issues, data governance and business models, alongside addressing technical issues, as we now have to simultaneously deal with multiple interacting outcomes in complex technical, social, economic and governance systems. The exciting prospect is that digitalisation of science can enable this new, and more effective, way of working. The question then becomes: how can we effectively accelerate this shift to a new way of working in agricultural science? As well as identifying key research areas, we suggest organisational changes will be required: new research business models, agile project management; new skills and capabilities; and collaborations with new partners to develop 'technology ecosystems'. © 2018 The Authors. © 2018 The Authors. Journal of The Science of Food and Agriculture published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society of Chemical Industry.

Keywords: digital agriculture; digital science; digitalisation; precision agriculture; technology; value chain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / economics
  • Agriculture / instrumentation
  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Agriculture / trends
  • Computer Systems
  • Decision Making
  • Digital Technology* / economics
  • Digital Technology* / instrumentation
  • Food Supply / economics*
  • Humans