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CIS Profs to Assess Farmers' Concerns About Digital Agriculture

As part of Cornell’s ongoing digital agriculture initiative, three professors have received funding through a program to develop computational and informational technologies to create more profitable, efficient, and sustainable agriculture.

Professors Solon Barocas (CIS), Karen Levy (CIS), and Harold van Es (CALS) will undertake research to understand social and policy considerations in the adoption of digital agriculture. One of the main concerns farmers have in deciding whether to adopt precision agriculture is their privacy.

“There are many new actors in the ecosystem that are in a position to gather a lot of information about farms – relaying information collected with novel sensors – and this has led to concerns about how data is put to use. Agricultural technology companies could use this data to make predictions in the futures markets, price discriminate, underwrite, or inform on competing farms,” said Barocas.

The researchers will conduct field work with NYS farmers. “Our aim is to develop a stronger understanding of farmers’ concerns related to privacy and data-intensive systems in their growing operations,” said Levy. “While the data could be used to help farmers be more efficient and productive, it might also be used in ways that deepen information asymmetries and economic power differentials in the agricultural sphere.”