Jump to Content

What does AI mean for smallholder farmers?: a proposal for farmer-centered AI research

Jess Holbrook
Norman Makoto Su
ACM Interactions (2021)


Artificial intelligence (AI) offers opportunities to solve complex problems facing smallholder farmers in the Global South. However, there is currently a dearth of research and resources available to organizations and policy-makers for building farmer-centered AI systems. As technologists, we believe it is our responsibility to draw from and contribute to research on farmers’ needs, practices, value systems, social worlds, and daily agricultural ecosystem realities. Drawing from our own fieldwork experience and scholarship, we propose concrete future directions for building AI solutions and tools that are meaningful to farmers and will significantly improve their lives. We also discuss tensions that may arise when incorporating AI into farming ecosystems. We hope that a closer look into these research areas will serve as a guide for technologists looking to leverage AI to help smallholder farmers in the Global South.