Regulating Big Data in Agriculture

Posted on Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue Project on AI for Healthy Humans and Environments at the AI + Society Initiative presents,
in collaboration with the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, the Institute for Science, Society and Policy and theCentre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics:


Regulating Big Data in Agriculture


Kelly Bronson, Jonathan W. Y. Gray, Sarah-Louise Ruder, & Jonathan Van Geuns


Tuesday, April 11, 2023 
at 11:30 ET


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Join us for a conversation on the datafication of agriculture and the need for governance and regulatory frameworks to support social justice in the collection and uses of farm data.

Data governance and regulation has become a growing concern in both public debates and among scholars coming from various disciplinary fields. Discussions have primarily been centered around data collected by platforms and corporations, and the need to regulate these data-mining processes and the uses – and misuses – of personal information. Meanwhile, other domains, such as agriculture, have been less a of focus of these regulatory conversations, presumably due to the different legal status of environmental data, and agriculture’s distance to urban centers where policies are primarily made and debated. Yet, the growing datafication of agriculture makes evident the need to raise attention around data regulatory issues in this domain.

The panel will discuss the state of data regulation in agriculture. What makes agriculture a potentially distinct site for digital data collection – i.e., environmental law, unpredictable (weather) conditions, costs, corporate players? How is it similar to other domains where discussions have been more extensive, such as social media and health data use? Is the much-heralded call for “open data” or “public data” the solution for confronted powerful data corporations, and does it equate to equate to full information access and social justice more broadly?


This event is presented as part of the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue’s Project on AI for Healthy Humans and Environments, hosted by the AI + Society Initiative. You can learn more about our research program on AI and Environment here.


About the panelists

Dr. Kelly Bronson is the Canada Research Chair in Science and Society, a Faculty member at the Centre for Law, Technology, and Society, and an Associate Professor within the School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa. She is a social scientist studying the social and environmental justice issues surrounding controversial technologies (GMOs, fracking, big data & AI) and their governance. Her research aims to bring community values into conversation with technical knowledge in the production of evidence-informed decision-making. She leads several grant-funded projects looking at emergent technologies used in agriculture and in environmental impact assessment and has just published a new book called The Immaculate Conception of Data: agribusiness, activists and their shared politics of the future (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2022).

Jonathan W. Y. Gray is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris).

Sarah-Louise Ruder is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, a UBC Public Scholar, and a Researcher at the University of the Fraser Valley's Food and Agriculture Institute. Interdisciplinary by training, Sarah-Louise is an environmental social scientist studying food and agriculture in Canada. Her research explores transitions to more sustainable, food sovereign, and just food systems and the politics of novel agri-food technologies. As part of her PhD work and public scholarship, she is investigating challenges and opportunities for data governance and data justice with the increasing digitalization of the food system, working alongside LiteFarm, OpenTEAM, and the FAO’s Improving Global Agriculture Data community of practice.

Jonathan Van Geuns is both a researcher and practitioner; he has gained expertise on all subjects related to innovation and data governance. Recently he has worked on seminal research and the design of data governance frameworks for UNICEF, the United States Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Mozilla Foundation, andthe City of Montreal, where he currently resides. He is trained in public international law, and has over a decade of experience working across sectors of development aid, access to data and information, participatory design, and innovation management, among others.


This event will be virtual.

This is a free event, open to everyone. However, registration is required.

This event will be in English only.

The event will be recorded, and photos may be taken.

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