Digitizing the world to form smart cities has long been the centre of focus. But we need to shift our focus to introducing more technologies to our farming sector. While the rest of the world is innovating, it seems okay that farmers are still living in the 1900s. The food in Canada comes mainly from the industries like farms, and vast steel and glass forests of greenhouses.
The employment of agri-food industrialization has its environmental and social consequences. The emergence of issues with digital technology is noticeable, yet the farming sector is undergoing a technological transformation. We cannot neglect the fact that it is playing a growing role in small and large organic farming systems.
All this foreshadows the world where local framers would spend much time managing their digital data, along with the dairy herds. The replacement of the milking apron with the milking app is just the beginning.
Since Canada relies mostly on its farming industry for food, the government is making enough investments in climate-smart and precision agricultural technologies. These technologies include digital tools like sensors, GPS, robots, drones, and smart tractors. All this is to increase the profit and reduce the reliance upon fertilizers and pesticides.
GPS is the technology that maps the characteristics of soil and crop yields. This technology helps the framers to increase profit by cutting costs. The employment of such a technology is beneficial for investors, corporations, and the government. But the success rate for farmers and owners is not that clear.
The ag-tech is not as vastly researched as it should be, considering that the farming sector is becoming dependent on it. So, the group of researchers from the University of Guelph decided to study the impacts of digitization of the farming sector on agriculture.
They came with the results that the changes in agriculture are proving beneficial in many ways, like an increase in profits, productivity, and pollution reduction. However, the future of farming is not going in a good direction.
The agricultural inputs, like fertilizer, feed, and seed are well-documented. The costs of land are rising, and farms are increasing in size. Digital agriculture may make things unfavourable. The current picture of farms would change to a new one with technological advancements. We are not really sure whether it will make things better or worse.
Farm workers to lose their jobs
The increase in cost is something that concerns consumers and producers. We need to understand how the digital revolution is changing work on farms. There are two main concerns in this regard.
First, the ag-tech is leading this sector to a sharply divided labour force. They are replacing less skilled workers with highly skilled managers. The debate here is that the hardworking workers are being labelled as less skilled. So, the question here is, would the so-called high skilled workers be able to make a success? Would it really be favourable for agriculture?
Second, the data produced by workers and farm owners can be subjected to massive commercial exploitation. So, the question is, who owns the produced data? Shouldn’t it be the property of those who produce it? The workers, farmers, and owners are not fully involved in technological innovation.
The Development of the Agricultural System
The food system of Canada has a questionable history. It was built on the suppression of indigenous foodways, land theft, and dislocation. The exploitation of labour has been there since the beginning. The farm workers were not even given the basic labour laws, the right to unionize, and legal status.
It is wholly true if we say that increased productivity relies on an increase in exploitation. The digital revolution seems promising, but the automation of framing tasks will eliminate the number of jobs. The privileged graduates from the university will secure well-paid jobs, but those who rely on the labour force will be marginalized.
In this regard, the government can play a vital role. They can enforce legislation and policies on ag-tech to support the farm workers. The government should take notice of the repatriation and ownership issue in Canada. Introducing permanent residence for migrant workers and supporting pathways for farming, are things that can lead the agricultural sector to a better future.
Instead of taking away the job from farmers and workers, the government should consider training the already working individuals. There is much that needs alteration to make ag-tech work in everyone’s favour.