Academic and political debates on the digitalization of agriculture have addressed sustainability mainly from an ecological perspective. Social sustainability, particularly questions of labor, has been largely neglected in the literature thus far. This is particularly problematic since digitalization could fundamentally change farming practices and labor processes on farms, with possibly far-reaching consequences for rural development, rural communities as well as migrant laborers. Looking at the case study of Germany, this article asks how digital technologies are changing labor processes on horticultural and arable farms. The aim of this paper is to bring labor into the debates around agriculture and digitalization and to offer a detailed picture of the impacts of digital technologies on labor in agriculture. The case study builds on fourteen in-depth interviews conducted from June 2020 to March 2021, participant observation, and digital ethnography. The results show new forms of labor control and an intensification of the work process linked to methods of digital Taylorism, as well as risks of working-class fragmentation along age lines. A deskilling of workers or farmers due to digitalization has not been observed. The suggestion of an increased dependency of workers due to the loss of employment opportunities in agriculture is contested. The results stress the importance of designing agricultural policies that foster fair and equitable working conditions.
Citation: Prause, Louisa (2021): “Digital Agriculture and Labor: A Few Challenges for Social Sustainability” Sustainability 13, no. 11: 5980. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13115980