Ethics of smart farming: Current questions and directions for responsible innovation towards the future

Simone van der Burg*, Marc Jeroen Bogaardt, Sjaak Wolfert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


Sensors, drones, weather satellites and robots are examples of technologies that make farming ‘smart’. In this article we present the results of our review of the literature that concerns the ethical challenges that smart farming raises. Our reading suggests that current ethical discussion about smart farming circles around three themes: (1) data ownership and access, (2) distribution of power and (3) impacts on human life and society. Discussions that fall under these themes have however not yet reached a satisfying conclusion, as there seem to be different ideas at work in the background regarding the purpose and function of digital farms in society. The pros and cons of these rivalling ideas are rarely foregrounded in the discussion. We suggest that future research should focus first on the content of these goals, especially on the content of societal and commercial goals and whether and how they can be combined in differing contexts. This will offer a lead to think about what data ought to be shared with whom, to set preconditions for trust between stakeholders and –eventually- develop appropriate guidelines and codes of conduct for future farming digitalization trajectories.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100289
JournalNJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences
Early online date14 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Data ownership
  • Data sharing
  • Ethics
  • Open access
  • Power distribution
  • Smart farming
  • Societal impacts


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