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Aysha Fleming



[Image of a split circle appears with photos in each half of the circle flashing through of various CSIRO activities and the circle then morphs into the CSIRO logo]


[Image changes to show a slide showing a drone above paddocks and Aysha can be seen inset in the top right talking to the camera and text appears: Foresighting for responsible agtech innovation, Aysha Fleming on behalf of Social Dimensions of Digiscape team]


Aysha Fleming: I’m presenting on behalf of a number of different people. So, the Social Dimensions of Digiscape team, as well as a whole bunch of different people who participated in a workshop which is the main focus of my talk.


[Image changes to show a new slide and Aysha can be seen inset in the top right talking and text appears on the slide: Outline, Contribution to Social Dimensions project, Innovation/Challenge, Multidisciplinarity – process and reflections, Attention gained, New research questions, Research Qs, What role will technology play in the future of Australian agriculture, What are the social and ethical implications]


So, the main thrust of this talk is really looking at two social science research questions. What role will technology play in the future of Australian agriculture? And, what are the social and ethical implications?


[Image changes to show a new slide showing a photo of two males and a female standing in a crop looking at an iPad and text appears: Digiscape Social Dimensions project, Project Objectives – identify and respond to social conditions and risks associated with digital agriculture innovation, Workshop Objectives – Identify trajectories of change and plausible futures scenarios and reflect on the social implications of these and the implications for Digiscape]


So, the Digiscape Social Dimensions project is led by Emma Jakku and the project really aimed to identify and respond to social conditions and risks associated with digital agriculture innovation. And as a part of that we ran a workshop with Digiscape participants in Brisbane in 2018 to really look at trajectories of change in Australian agriculture and the world and from that to develop some plausible future scenarios to help us catalyse reflection, and start to build some capability in Responsible Innovation in terms of addressing and understanding social implications of our future agtech development.


[Image changes to show a flow chart of the workshop process and text heading and text appears: Workshop process, Horizon scanning - Identify trends - Discussion on RI, trends in culture and advice networks, Validating trends – Grouping - Technological; social; economic; environmental, Choosing axes - Crafting scenarios – Refining and exploring implications, Reporting and visualisation – Feedback – Finalisation]


So, the workshop was structured like this. First of all we started with some horizon scanning which involved three expert presentations. One was around trajectories of Australian agriculture in Australia. So, things like an ageing demographic, farm sizes tending to become larger, and increasing use of technology for example. One was about associations between technology and agricultural cultures, taking more of a global perspective. And another one was about Responsible Innovation and what that really means and how we could start to apply it.


So, the Responsible Innovation thinking that we aimed to develop through the workshop was really about anticipation and responsiveness. So, looking forwards and changing what we do as a result, result. Reflexivity and inclusion – thinking deeply about where we’re coming from and why. And inclusion – thinking about who else might need to be involved in some of that.


So, after we had those expert presentations, as a workshop group we came up with a whole bunch of trends that we saw affecting Australian agriculture. Then we grouped them into the different categories, technological, social, economic and environmental. And we chose two, through a voting system. Those two trends then became our axes for developing future scenarios. And the workshop participants broke up into four groups, each one facilitated by a Social Dimensions team member to really interrogate what the future might be and what that could mean for Agtech and Responsible Innovation. And then of course there was some reporting and visualisation.


[Image changes to show a new slide showing an x-axis of low and high innovation and a y-axis of insecure and secure resources and four farming scenario pictures and Aysha can be seen in the top right talking and text appears on the slide: Four scenarios, Scenario 1 – Struggling, Scenario 2 - Innovating, Scenario 3 - Surviving, Scenario 4 – Thriving]


So, these were the scenarios that we developed through the workshop and the two axes, along the x-axis we have low innovation, and high innovation in farm business models. Along the y-axis we have security of resources. So, that was mainly environmental resources but also could include economic resources. So, these scenarios were really designed, as I said, to catalyse reflective thinking and possible responsive change as a result. They aren’t all about depicting, you know, any types of certainty, or about depicting right and wrong. So, each different scenario had good aspects, and bad aspects, and each one involved technology in some way.


[Image changes to show a new slide showing a photo of a child dressed as an explorer and a text heading appears: Innovation and challenges]


So, the innovation of the workshop really was trying to incorporate these Responsible Innovation skills in the process of developing technology at the same time. And not surprisingly, that was also the biggest challenge. It was quite difficult for some of the technologies, or products, or platforms that were already underway to have much room to really be able to incorporate a lot of change. However, we did feel that we did have an impact on the skill development, and the ability to be able to think of these sorts of things ongoing and in the future, which we were quite happy to see.


[Image changes to show a new slide showing a photograph of different people all in conversations and Aysha can be seen talking inset in the top right and text appears: Multidisciplinarity]


Just a comment about multi-disciplinarity. We certainly had a diverse mix of science in the room, from agronomy to environmental science, obviously social science, and data science as well, and a whole range of different roles from research scientists to project leads. What we didn’t include in the workshop was any type of industry or public representation. And while that was deliberate, because we wanted to create a safe space to build our own capacities and have some of the harder questions, it really did limit the diversity of some of the discussions we could have. And, so we recognise that as an important area to change into the future.


[Image changes to show a new slide showing an article in the Agricultural Systems journal and Aysha can be seen inset talking in the top right]


So, this has just come out. If you want to read anymore about it, it’s just come out in Ag Systems, and it’s published open access, so I recommend that you all have look if you want to get into a bit more of the details about what we found.


[Image changes to show a new slide showing three comments about the journal paper appearing in speech bubbles and text heading appears: Attention]


Just briefly, the workshop process was quite useful, even though it’s only just come out in paper form now, it was useful for a lot of reporting on Digiscape, back in 2018, and it’s, it was used by Andrew Moore for example, but also by our own Social Dimensions team, in terms of developing some other reports and guidance for industry.


[Image changes to show a new slide showing text heading and text: Further research questions, What are the future values that shape the agriculture and food sector?, How can publicly funded science promote more equitable outcomes in an increasingly competitive, costly, and constrained environment?, Will digital technology result in an agricultural revolution or is it just a continuation of the status quo?, How has widespread digitalisation of farming, and value chains altered structural and power relationships with the Australian farming sector and globally?]


Some of the further research questions that came out of the workshop, and there’s quite a lot more of these in the paper, that were about what future values might shape agriculture and the food sector as a result of Agtech in the future and they’re really reminding us to keep considering the importance of what values, you know, are we really working towards achieving. We also had a lot of discussion that we didn’t really resolve, how publicly funded science like CSIRO, can work to create more equitable outcomes in this space. We have an increasingly constrained and competitive and costly environment but we also have increasingly complex objectives that we’re trying to achieve.


We’re trying to benefit the environment as well as society as well as private partners, so it’s a challenging space. Also will digital technology result in a revolution, or is it just a continuation of the status quo? Is it Ag 4.0, and do we want it to be as a crucial part of that? And finally, how has widespread digitalisation of farming and value chains, of value chains altered structural and power relationships? So, just again, that focus on values and power is something that we need to keep revisiting as we go further and further into the Agtech innovation space.


[Image changes to show a new slide and Aysha can be seen inset on the top right talking and text appears on the slide: Lessons learned… #RI and #agtech are only growing in influence and importance, Responsible Innovation requires capacity building and culture change, Workshops can help but aren’t sufficient, The Social Dimension project in Digiscape has been a valuable opportunity to contribute to CSIRO’s RI capacity and culture and is a testament to the design and operation of Digiscape (special shout out to Emma Jakku as project lead)]


So, some key lessons that I just wanted to pull out are that Responsible Innovation and Agtech are only growing in importance and influence and it’s something that CSIRO is certainly going to have to deal with a lot more into the future. Responsible Innovation definitely requires some capacity building, some skill development, and some culture change. And I would suggest that CSIRO is probably only at the beginning of some of that cultural change shift. It’s certainly happening but we need to go further there. So, one workshop isn’t sufficient to achieve all of that capacity building, and cultural change, and all of the Responsible Innovation requirements. It’s a helpful part of the process but there needs to be multiple other ongoing activities as well.


And finally, the Social Dimensions project, I think, was really important in helping CSIRO to build some of these skills and start having some of these really important conversations to start shifting that culture and identifying where more needs to be done. And I really like to give a special shout out to Emma Jakku as project lead, as having done a really wonderful job in this space.


[Image changes to show a new slide showing text: Other reading, Fielke, S., B. Taylor and E. Jakku (2020), “Digitalisation of agricultural knowledge and advice networks – A state of the art review”, agricultural Systems 180: 102763, Jakku et al. (in review), “Reflecting on digital agri-technology innovation – Insights from rural sociology and responsible innovation”, Sociolgia Ruralis]


Just like to point to some further reading which might be of interest for others on the call. Simon Fielke, as one of the Social Dimensions team members, did a review of agricultural trends, which is what was presented on at the workshop which might be of interest, and that’s there. And also, Emma Jakku is leading a paper reflecting more broadly on Agtech innovation and Responsible Innovation and that should be coming out shortly if you want to follow up.


[Image changes to show a new slide showing a photo of daisies and Aysha can be seen talking in the top right and text appears: Thank you for your attention, Acknowledgements, Emma Jakku, Simon Fielke, Bruce Taylor, Cara Stitzlein, Justine Lacey, Andrew Terhorst and workshop participants]

So, that’s really all I wanted to say. Just again, a final acknowledgement that this work, I’m just presenting this work on behalf of a number of others but it was my pleasure to do so. Thank you very much.


[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo on a white screen and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]





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