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Handpicked: Stories from the Field

Presented by the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Handpicked: Stories from the Field is a podcast series that showcases research that drives positive change in our food systems—ways we produce, gather, eat, understand and dispose of our food. Produced and hosted by Amanda Di Battista and Laine Young, the series presents compelling, real-life stories of food practitioners, such as farmers, policymakers and activists. Episodes follow researchers and community partners in their efforts to make their food systems more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

Jul 26, 2021

In this episode of Handpicked: Stories from the Fieldguest producer Harrison Runtz talks with food systems experts Kelly Bronson, Irena Knezevic, and Carly Livingstone about how new digital technologies are changing the ways we grow and get food. They look at how big agri-businesses like John Deere create visions of a technological future of food, examine what Amazon’s entry into online food retailing has meant for small-scale and local food retailers, and argue for a more critical understanding about the impact of technological innovations on food systems. Together, they ask vital questions about who benefits and who doesn’t from new food technologies.  

Guest-Producer & Host: Harrison Runtz
Co-Producers & Hosts: Amanda Di Battista & Laine Young
Sound Design, Research & Editing: Adedotun Babajide 

Kelly Bronson
Carly Livingstone
Irena Knezevic  

Support & Funding
Wilfrid Laurier University
The Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
Carleton Food and Media Hub
Balsillie School for International Affairs 

Music Credits
Keenan Reimer-Watts 

Moving Beyond Acknowledgments- LSPIRG
Whose Land
Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
Farm Forward with John Deere
Farm Hack
Look twice at the digital agricultural revolution (Bronson and Knezevic)
From Online Cart to Plate: What Amazon's Retail Domination Means for the Future of Food (Livingstone and Knezevic)
Looking through a responsible innovation lens at uneven engagements with digital farming (Bronson) 

See also the resources linked to the S1E6 episode of Handpicked, "We are all shepherds of the data": Food, tech and data sovereignty 


Connect with Us:
Twitter: @Handpickedpodc
Facebook: Handpicked Podcast  

Glossary of Terms

Big Data
Large quantities of data gathered by digital platforms, such as Amazon or Facebook, and other technologies, such as remote sensing, etc. Big data can be sorted and analyzed in different ways to uncover important insights for decision making. For instance, big data can be used to understand consumer purchasing practices to inform marketing spending and business practices to increase profit margins.  

Data Mining
Extracting patterns and key insights from big data sets, often using statistics and machine-learning technologies.  

Data Sovereignty 
The right of people to have access to and power over the data and information associated with their lives, work, or communities.    

The increasing use of digital technologies across sectors to make decisions and enable practices. Digital technologies include (but are not limited to), local and remote sensing technologies, digital platforms, big data, cloud-based solutions, etc. 

Farming 4.0
Also referred to as digital farming, smart farming, or precision agriculture, this type of farming makes use of sensing technology and sophisticated computing technologies to make decisions about all aspects of the farm including crop choice, inputs, irrigation, and harvesting.  

Food Policy
Food policies are developed by governments at different scales to guide food-related decisions and actions. They inform and govern public, private, and non-profit sector actions related to improving food-related outcomes and can create opportunities for stakeholders to work together across sectors. 

Food Security  
Food security is the ability to access safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and sufficient food all year round. A person or community is food insecure when people cannot afford or have limited or no access to the food they need to nourish their bodies. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization state that “food insecurity can affect diet quality in different ways, potentially leading to undernutrition as well as. . . obesity.”  

Food Sovereignty
"Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems." 

Open Source Data  
A legal protection that ensures that data that is owned and available for use to everyone in a particular community. In the case of Open Food Network, all users have access to all code associated with the platform but must make any alterations or new code available to all other users.   

Digital infrastructure or frameworks for different kinds of exchange. For example, Open Food Network is a platform that enables digital food hubs, shops, or farmers markets.  

A food enterprise which makes, grows, bakes, cooks, or produces food which it can supply to other businesses for sale.  

The use of machines to perform tasks previously completed by waged workers. In agriculture, robotics include picking and milking machines, tractors and other farming machines, and packing machines, among other technologies.  

Supply Chain 
All of the components of a system—including organizations, producers, suppliers, people, resources, activities, information, and infrastructures—that get a product to a consumer.   

Sustainable Food System 
Food systems that are “socially just, support local economies; are ecologically regenerative, and foster citizen engagement.”    

Discussion Questions 

  1. How are digital technologies changing food and farming

  2. How are privacy concerns around food and farming data similar to, or different from, more general digital privacy worries (e.g., social media, geo-tracking, etc.)?

  3. Why is concentrated power in digital food and farming an issue of social justice?

  4. What are some approaches that can ensure digital technologies equitably serve farmers and others who work in food?