This collaborative program of research is led by Dr. Kelly Bronson, Canada Research Chair in Science & Society at the University of Ottawa (see www.scienceandsocietycollective.com). 

Farming is said to be undergoing a digital “revolution.” New tractors are now fitted with sensors that passively collect data on the farm, on farm equipment and even farmers. This data is aggregated with those from other farms into “big data” which are used in machine learning to advise farmers on when to spray, seed and harvest. Dr. Bronson’s work focuses on the potential that big data and the digital tools for collecting, aggregating and analyzing them is poised to reproduce long-standing and inequitable relationships of power in the agri-food sector. Through collaborations with Dr. Irena Knezevic, this program of research is an important part of food studies initiatives at Carleton University.

Green Tractor

Diversity by Design

Diversity by Design is a social science research project that wants to better understand the usefulness of digital technologies for small- and medium-scale farmers, which includes market gardeners, organic farmers, regenerative farmers, and others. We ask what digital tools are currently used, which ones may be of potential use that have not yet been developed, and what are concerns over the supposed digital ‘revolution’? For this work, we follow a practice-based and hands-on approach that starts from small- and medium-scale farmers’ experiences and reflections. Findings of this project are helping inform policymakers and technology developers to craft a more inclusive and diverse agri-food system.

The Ontario Agri-food Research Initiative with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture provided funding to mobilize the findings from Diversity by Design. See below for a plain language policy brief which summarizes findings from fieldwork and an online survey, as well as links to 4 short video stories featuring small-scale farmers and innovation.

Diversity by Design Project Brief FINAL

Diversity by Design_Outreach presentation 2022-2023

Diversity by Design_Outreach_Summary of Questions and Answers


Dobson’s Grass Fed Beef

Coopérative pour l’Agriculture de Proximité Écologique (CAPÉ)

Aman Farms

Thiessen Tillage Equipment

Selected collaborative publications:

Lynch, M., I. Knezevic and K. Ryan. (2020). Qualitative analysis of social media platforms: Opportunities for dietetic researchers and practitioners. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 2020 Dec 15: 1-5. doi: 10.3148/cjdpr-2020-035.

Livingstone, C.  and I. Knezevic. (2020). From Online Cart-to-Plate: What Amazon’s Retail Domination Means for the Future of Food. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 9 (4), 311–329. doi: 10.5304/jafscd.2020.094.017.

Bronson, K. and I. Knezevic. (2019). The “big data divide” and how it matters for Canadian food system equity. Canadian Journal of Communication, Policy Portal, 44 (2), 63-68. doi: 10.22230/cjc.2019v44n2a3489

Bronson, K. and I. Knezevic. (2017). Look twice at the digital agricultural revolution. Policy Options. Online at http://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/september-2017/look-twice-at-the-digital-agricultural-revolution/, September 7.

Bronson K. and I. Knezevic (2016). Perspective: Food Studies Scholars Can No Longer Ignore the Rise of Big Data, Canadian Food Studies, 3(1), 9-19. doi: 10.15353/cfs-rcea.v3i1.138

Supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.