Digital Tool Scoping Workshops

One of the tasks of the Digital Tool Scoping Workshops is to carry out an indicator-based assessment of selected digital technologies. The methodology developed in this protocol is based on both qualitative and quantitative analysis that can be carried out using the expertise of a diverse group of participants. At the same time, it was taken into consideration the limited amount of time available for workshops, the large number of indicators (30) that the participants need to discuss, the diversity of the technologies assessed in the project, as well as the many uncertainties surrounding the Digitalisation of Agriculture.

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Given the novelty of several technologies assessed in the workshops, and particularly the participants’ unfamiliarity with them, measuring the impact of these technologies on specific indicators of agroecology (such as ‘habitat and landscape diversity’, ‘protection against pest and disease attacks’, or ‘data ownership’) can easily lead to a false sense of confidence. The effects of technologies often depend highly on the context in which they are used, while new digital products are constantly being developed. The main task of these workshops should therefore be to point out the potential impacts of digital technologies, both positive and negative, so that policymakers and other stakeholders can choose to take action or investigate further. In that sense, the assessment carried out in the workshops resembles horizon scanning.

The Digital Tool Scoping Workshops will rely on a mix of participants’ experiences with the technologies and their predictions based on their general knowledge of digitalisation and agriculture. Given the ambiguities mentioned above, an important aspect is measuring the uncertainty that the participants have in their assessment of the technology’s impact. Just as important is the diversity of the participating stakeholders. To ensure that a wide variety of views and sources of knowledge are considered, we will include farmers, farm advisors, digitalisation experts and academics from different disciplines in our workshops. That way, the workshops follow the principle of “co-creation and sharing of knowledge”, one of the FAO’s 10 elements of agroecology (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The ten elements of agroecology by the FAO

The final general consideration for the workshops is the duration. In order to be able to include participants from diverse backgrounds, as well as keep the process productive, the duration of the workshops is set to a maximum of 5 hours and 30 minutes. This provides the organisers enough time to be able to introduce the topic to the participants and, if possible, present the digital technology, while still leaving approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes to tasks directly related to the agroecological and the ADOPT model assessment. A final, 30-minutes discussion is planned at the end of the workshop to ensure that the knowledge created during workshop gets shared with all of the participants. Each workshop includes the analysis of one technology so as to provide enough time for presenting and discussing the technology, which greatly improves the quality of the collected data compared with the several more hurried workshop versions for assessing multiple technologies.

During the Digital Tool Scoping Workshops, at the first place, an indicator-based agroecological assessment of technologies into two main stages, following the separation of divergent (that is, creative and explorative) and convergent (evaluative) thinking. In the first stage (focused on creative and explorative thinking), the participants will use the list of indicators provided by the organisers to think creatively about the potential impacts of the technology on the 10 elements of agroecology, and are encouraged to bring both negative and positive examples. In the second stage of the agroecological assessment (focused on evaluative thinking), the participants will be first asked to fill in an online survey to evaluate the technology’s impact on agroecology at the level of the FAO’s 10 elements of agroecology by answering three questions concerning the technology’s effect on each element, the level of confidence they have for the given element of agroecology and the rating of the statement that their assessment on the technology’s impact on the element at the regional level also applies at the European level.

Following the agroecological assessment, the assessment of the ADOPT model is part of the Digital Tool Scoping Workshops, wherein a group of seven to ten local farmers and agricultural technology advisors engage in moderated discussions in each of the 12 workshops with their respective digital technologies under study. ADOPT is a predictive quantitative model that has been developed to evaluate the adoption of innovations in agricultural systems and natural resource management systems. The acronym stands for “Adoption and Diffusion Outcome Prediction Tool”. By utilizing the ADOPT software and conducting a consensus evaluation of 22 questions regarding the technology and the user population, the group estimates adoption rate, the speed at which adoption peaks, and the sensitivity of the model parameters.

To summarise the results of the agroecological assessment and to inform farmers, policymakers and other stakeholders, fact sheets will be written (in English) on each assessed technology. These fact sheets will be published on the D4AgEcol website in November 2024.

The preliminary fact sheets will additionally be used to write a report on the Digital Tool Scoping Workshops, which will be published in July 2024. The technologies to be assessed with the Digital Tool Scoping Workshops are summarized in the following Table, with respect to the presenting Living Lab. These technologies largely correspond to the preliminary list proposed by D4AgEcol.

Partner Technology
DLG (Germany) Solar-powered irrigation system
AUA (Greece) Unmanned aerial vehicle sprayer for vineyards
LfL (Germany) Robotic sowing and hoeing in row crops
PESSL (Austria) Digitalised crop protection through the use of information and communications technology
UCPH (Denmark) Unmanned-aerial- vehicle-based weed mapping
HAU (United Kingdom) Virtual fencing with the use of smart collars
– Small-sized equipment retrofitted for autonomous strip cropping
ZALF (Germany) Online tool for agri- environmental-climate measures
LUKE (Finland) Unmanned-aerial- vehicle-based green fertiliser mapping
ATB (Germany) – Sensor-based health management in cattle farming
– Site-specific fertiliser application based on sensors and maps
UNAC (Portugal) Remote sensing in mixed farming systems