Digital Technology and Agriculture: Foresight for Rural Enterprises and Rural Lives in New Zealand
Bruce Small, PhD

The sustainability and resilience of rural communities in New Zealand in the face of changing circumstances and conditions is gaining increasing media and academic attention with trends towards, and prediction of, rural decline. New and emerging digital technologies are an important driver of global change, offering both opportunities for, and threats to, business, welfare, and social-ecological sustainability, including rural enterprises and rural communities. Some of these technologies will have incremental influences on changing enterprises and supply chains, however, others may potentially be very disruptive to the current New Zealand agricultural system, rural enterprises and value chains, and rural lives. The purpose of this paper is to 1) contextualise factors influencing technology development and adoption, 2) survey new and emerging digital technologies and, 3) foresight some potential implications for agricultural enterprises and rural communities in the next 20 years. Precision agriculture, agricultural robotics, computerised farm management decision support, and the digitisation of agriculture are changing the nature, efficiency and transparency of agricultural production. However, the digital farming revolution is occurring in the context of a wide range of co-evolving technologies (many also digitally based), and social and political change, which open up new meaningful possibilities for living and working in rural and remote locations. At the same time, the requirements of consumers are changing to reflect a greater focus on sustainable agriculture, ethical food production and delivery, the social conditions of employees, and quality assurance, nutritional value, and provenance of food. There will be interplay between the evolving nature of rural lifestyles and rural enterprises wrought through technological development. Foresight endeavours, though fallible, may act as a springboard for rural residents to recognise and realise emerging opportunities and mitigate potential threats. Awareness of technological trajectories may help communities to strategically prepare for an increasingly digital future, enhancing their resilience and adaptability to inevitable change. Responsible technological development and responsible business practices will be key to engendering the increased trust and collaboration required amongst agricultural value chain participants in order to fully realise the potential benefits of digital agriculture.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jaes.v6n2a7