Sanitizing Agri-Food Tech: the Covid-19 pandemic risks depoliticizing entrepreneurial projects

Authors: Emily Reisman*, University at Buffalo (SUNY)
Topics: Food Systems, Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: agriculture, food, technology, COVID-19, digital, automation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The COVID-19 pandemic moment may serve to sanitize emerging agricultural technologies of their political dimensions through narratives of health, safety and security. This paper provides a critical analysis of agri-food technologies perceived by investors, entrepreneurs and industry leaders as likely to gain traction due to COVID-19. I argue that proposed innovations are far from neutral paths toward a more sanitary and secure agricultural future. Most are limited in their capacity to disrupt patterns of racial and geopolitical hierarchy, ecological precarity and the concentration of power in the agri-food system, or simply promise more than possible. New technologies may be capable of addressing COVID-related concerns, but these capacities are unlikely to be achieved unless they are explicitly designed to do so.

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