STS Seminar Series looks at agricultural technology’s role in deepening industry inequities

Top view of a farm field

The 2021-22 Science and Technology Studies (STS) Research Seminar Series continues on Tuesday, Oct. 26 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and features Sarah Rotz, an assistant professor in York University’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change. Her talk is titled “Disciplining Land, Deepening Inequity: The Relationship between Agricultural Technologies, Data Bias and Farmland Assetization.”

Headshot of Sarah Rotz
Sarah Rotz

The talk will explore how agricultural technologies are deepening inequity, marketization and concentration, both in the context of data and land itself. Rotz will discuss her research showing how scientific decisions about which data to collect and how to use them are privileging already powerful food system actors – farmers managing large commodity crop operations and the large agribusinesses supplying them. By economic logic, this bias makes sense, as these farms have the money to pay for expensive commercial technologies, but the bias presents significant social, environmental and land management problems that are crucial to understanding the human impacts of agriculture. Rotz will then connect this with the issue of land itself.

Agricultural technology (ag-tech) startups are growing rapidly – venture capital investments have contributed over $2.8 billion in ag-tech startups in alone – but researchers and activists haven’t been able to get a very clear sense of the role of digital agriculture in land grabbing, farmland land financialization and assetization. Rotz’s research aims to better understand how data is being used in farmland transactions, in processes of land valuation, and for land management decisions by farm investors, owners and renters – and with what consequences. 

Now in its 28th year, the STS Research Seminar Series features seminars on a wide range of STS-related topics. Sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology Studies and co-ordinated by its members, the series has hosted over 500 speakers from Canada and around the world.

All events in the series will run on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 2 p.m. They are all free and open to the public, with no registration required. They will be delivered via Zoom in the fall term, with the winter term to be determined. To receive a Zoom link for this event and others in the series, contact Conor Douglas, seminar series co-ordinator, at