Engineering land’s financial future with digital technologies and big data

Authors: Sarah Ruth Sippel*,
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Food Systems
Keywords: financialization, digitization, agri-food
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The nature of farming is – still – an essentially biological, and thus volatile, system which poses substantial challenges towards its financialization. Financial investors often seek stability and relatively predictable risk-return outcomes that are hardly compatible with the complexities of agricultural production systems. However, via new digital farming technologies and ‘big data’ this predictability is increasingly seen as achievable. This paper explores how digital technologies are used on the ground to engineer land’s financial(ized) future. Drawing on fieldwork on financialized farms in Australia between 2016 and 2019, I first show how farmland investors value and promote the automation and mechanization of farms to reduce and control labour. Second, I demonstrate how ‘just-in-time’ technologies are used to manage farms and information flows across large distances. Third, I reveal how digital technologies are used to deliver supposedly ‘objective’ farm metrics to fit into investor models designed by investors with little to no experience in farming and agricultural investment. Digital technologies have therefore become a key tool in transforming farms into ‘investment grade assets’, endowed with rich data on their benefits to farming and performance increases. What does it mean if the future of food will be ‘engineered’ through the combination of financial motivations and digital ‘perfection’?

Abstract Information

This abstract is already part of a session. View the session here.

To access contact information login