Our group (Bill Jordan (retired from EPA), Edem Avemegah (sociologist), Haiying Tao (soil scientist), and me (tech designer/social scientist) focused on questions around adoption of digital agriculture technology.
We had a wide-ranging discussion; our main conclusion was that this was a complex problem that required the integration of sociological understanding with technological work and policy development.
Some of the concrete avenues we discussed include:
- Extensions: connecting researchers with farmers
- On-farm research and demonstration
- Reaching out explicitly to early adopters; often other farmers will pick up the technology once they see the early adopters having success, and this leverages the social circulation of knowledge already happening in farming communities
- Design strategies that make it easier to 'do' conservation, figure out what applies to your situation, including decision support systems
- Technological developments that make the technology more relevant and accurate; for example, there are few sensors available for aspects of soil health outside how much water it contains
- Addressing social issues around e.g. trust; financial issues are definitely part of the story about why people aren't adopting, but not the only thing. In particular, it may help to:
- Understand the sources of information that farmers trust and target those
- Include consultants and service providers