I have a garden on the Internet! Searching for the farmer in a remotely controlled farming enterprise

Preininger, Ernst Michael; Hafner, Robert

The paper examines the conceptual implications of using Smart Farming Technologies and digitalisation in small-scale food production, exemplified by the Austrian start-up “myAcker”. The company runs a hybrid system of gamified, remote-controlled agriculture, where its customers assume the role of “online gardeners” and take care of their own vegetables. Conceptually, it combines two different logics, namely the technology focus of vertical farming and algorithm-based control over operational processes, and the participatory, values-based elements of Alternative Food Networks like connectivity, sustainability, and ownership developed by online gardeners. Consequently, the dividing lines between producers, customers, and technology, as well as between virtual and physical, become blurred. Thus, the agency of technology becomes a co-constituent of agricultural work, life, and identity, which is itself co-constituted by human actors in a network of social relations.

The case study shows the new potential and pitfalls of small-scale smart farming and digitalisation, making it necessary to conceptually revisit human–environment relations in the Actor Network Theory by more explicitly including technology as a bridging element.

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Preininger, Ernst Michael / Hafner, Robert: I have a garden on the Internet! Searching for the farmer in a remotely controlled farming enterprise. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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