From precision farming to smartphone applications that scan products, and the arrival of the web giants (GAFAM), digital technologies are transforming the food system in every way. This evolution, often presented as necessary and unavoidable, is however far from being neutral on our models of production and consumption. This is what our study investigates, carried out on behalf of and in partnership with the Carasso Foundation.
Digital technologies have become an integral part of our daily lives, changing the way the economy and society as a whole work. To what extent is it also changing the agricultural and food sectors today?
Our study highlights the multiple and still partly uncertain consequences of the development and dissemination of digital tools in the food sector, which are likely to disrupt all the players, from the provision of agricultural inputs and services to the final consumption of food products.
The digital technologies offered by private players hold out the promise of reducing environmental impacts (including greenhouse gas emissions, use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, etc.) and harsh working conditions. But the market is directing these advances towards the most influential players, thereby strengthening their dominant positions in the food sector and their capacity to create and capture value along the chain. Beyond, digital technologies are most often focused on optimising performance to enable players to lower their costs for each euro of value created. In doing so, they amplify the convergence towards capital-intensive and automated business models throughout food chains.
Yet, to ensure the sustainability of the food system as well as its resilience, it would be necessary today to transform production models and to allow for their diversity across territories and sectors. Achieving this objective requires to collectively choose the desired direction of the agricultural and food sector, and then use digital technologies to support it. This raises important questions with regards to public investments and public regulations of the digital market, which are critical at a time when the last arbitrations of the new Common Agricultural Policy are being played out.
For further information, see :
- The different parts of our study (in French):