Shaping inclusive policy frameworks for the future of environment
Artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the health of humans via improvements to systems and service delivery and AI will also impact environmental health—notably through data-driven sustainability improvements in food production.
Food production is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, (e.g. through methane production at large cattle feedlots) as well as soil and biodiversity degradation. AI promises to revolutionize agriculture and drastically reduce its environmental impact by indicating the precise use of resources through big data-driven advice generated by machine learning (ML). However, this sustainability promise of AI remains largely untested. Preliminary studies suggest that while AI may help solve environmental problems it may consequently raise social issues such as exaggerating power inequity felt in the food system. For instance, robotics technologies are being applied to horticulture, displacing already vulnerable temporary foreign agricultural laborers.
The research aims to shed light on both the environmental and social impacts of big data and AI in food production, with a focus on what policy-makers could do to enable the sustainability gains presented by emerging digitization while fairly distributing its risks. We will develop tools and a framework to support policymakers in Canada and abroad in implementing and exploring what constitutes “smart” changes—ones that support healthier and more sustainable AI-powered healthcare and food production. Our research approach takes an interdisciplinary and critical social science perspective to study the evolving relationship between innovation and the agro-environment.
Launched as part of the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue’s Project on AI for Healthy Humans and Environments, this research stream is co-stewarded by the Institute for Science, Society and Policy, the Centre for Law, Technology and Society and the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics.
- Blair Peruniak, Alex Trebek Postdoctoral Fellow on AI and Environmental Justice (2022-...)
- Autonomous Robot Highways in the Soft Fruit Sector (22 October 2020)
- Creating a Sustainable and Equitable Digital Agriculture Revolution (23 February 2021)
- Indoor Vertical Farming: Food Security Promises, Technical Realities, and Policy Approaches (18 January 2022)
- The Smartification of Everything: Panel Symposium (7 March 2022)
- Book Launch: The Immaculate Conception of Data (12 September 2022)
- Regulating Big Data in Agriculture (11 April 2023)
- OpEd: The Dangers of Big Data Extend to Farming (Kelly Bronson, The Conversation, 27 June 2022)
- Event Brief: Ethics and Responsible Innovation for Autonomous Robots in the Agriculture Sector (8 March 2021)
- Event Brief: Designing AI for food justice and sustainability (31 March 2021)
- Exhibition: The Smartification of Everything: The “SmART” Exhibition (7 March 2022)
- Workshops and Video Series: Existing Levels of Technological Innovation Among Smallholder Farmers (2022)
- Kelly Bronson, Rachana Devkota & Vivian Nguyen, Moving toward Generalizability? A Scoping Review on Measuring the Impact of Living Labs, (2021). Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13 (2), pages 1-16
- Mascha Gugganig & Kelly Bronson, Perspective: Digital Agriculture, Food Studies: Matter, Meaning, Movement (Food Studies Press, 2022)
- Karly Burch, Julie Guthman, Mascha Gugganig, Kelly Bronson, Matt Comi, Katharine Legun, Charlotte Biltekoff, Garrett Broad, Samara Brock, Susanne Freidberg, Patrick Baur & Diana Mincyte, Social scientist – STEM collaborations in agriculture, food and beyond: An STSFAN Manifesto, Agriculture and Human Values (2023).
- Kelly Bronson, Immaculate Conception of Data: Agribusiness, activists and their shared politics of the future (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2022)
This research stream is supported by the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, the Canada Research Chairs Program, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.