Funded PhD Studentship: “Cultivating Change: Navigating the Social and Ethical Landscape of AI in Agriculture.”

Harper Adams University
May 17, 2024
Offerd Salary:£19,237
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Contract Type:Fixed Term
Working Time:Full time
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Funded PhD Studentship: “Cultivating Change: Navigating the Social and

Ethical Landscape of AI in Agriculture.”

Agriculture & Environment Location: Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB

Salary: As per advert Post Type: Full Time Contract Type: Fixed Term - 36 Months Closing Date: 23.59 hours BST on Friday 17 May 2024 Reference: RD-PHD-24-DI-R1-MH

PhD Studentship: “Cultivating Change: Navigating the Social and Ethical Landscape of AI in Agriculture.”

Start Date: 1st October 2024

Primary supervisor: Dr Dimitrios Iakovidis, Harper Adams University

Second Supervisors: Dr Fiona Williams, Harper Adams University

Dr Yiorgos Gadanakis, University of Reading

Project description

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into agriculture marks a pivotal shift towards more efficient, sustainable, and resilient farming practices (Patrício & Rieder, 2018). AI's potential to transform the agricultural landscape is immense, offering unique opportunities for innovation adoption. Smith (2020) emphasises AI's value to agriculture, from precision farming to advanced decision-support tools, underscoring the importance of AI technologies adoption to meet the growing global food demand while addressing climate change challenges. Studies to date, showcase how AI technologies can revolutionise crop management, plant protection, and yield prediction, enabling smarter and more precise farming decisions (Fraisse et al., 2022, Kulyal & Saxena, 2022, Nyéki & Neményi, 2022, Sinwar et al., 2019). Liakos et al. (2018) provide a comprehensive review of a subset of AI in agriculture, and machine learning, and conclude that AI applications have the potential to play a transformative role in improving agricultural practices through data-driven decision-making and real-time insights.

Nevertheless, the integration of AI into agriculture is not without ethical and social risks. Sparrow et al. (2021) highlight the potential unintended consequences of AI adoption noting labour displacement and privacy concerns as problematic; the authors call for a balanced approach to AI integration that pays due attention to the ethical dilemmas posed, in addition to the benefits extolled. Furthermore, with the multi-faceted sustainability and social responsibilities of the agri-food sector receiving increased attention (Vlachopoulou et al., 2021, Barth et al., 2021), Di Vaio et al. (2020) investigate AI's role in fostering sustainable business models within the agri-food industry, emphasising the need for innovative approaches that align with environmental and social goals.

As the sector navigates this technological frontier, there is a growing need to address the social and ethical dimensions that come with the adoption of AI in agriculture. This PhD project aims to foster a comprehensive understanding of AI integration into agriculture by focusing on its social and ethical dimensions. By examining these implications thoroughly, we aim to develop a framework for the responsible deployment of AI in agriculture, promoting inclusive, equitable, and socially just outcomes for all stakeholders.

Harper Adams University is one of the few centres in the UK that can carry out high-impact research investigating the social and ethical landscape of AI in agriculture. This project aims to contribute to a balanced discourse on AI in agriculture, highlighting pathways to harness AI for the common good while addressing legitimate concerns. It will:

• Inform policymakers and industry leaders about the potential social and ethical pitfalls of AI in agriculture and suggest measures to navigate these challenges.

• Provide guidelines for inclusive and ethical AI development in agriculture, emphasising stakeholder engagement and benefit sharing.

• Stimulate further interdisciplinary research on the intersection of technology, society, and ethics in the context of global agricultural practices.

Preliminary findings will be presented at academic conferences and workshops to gather feedback from the scholarly community and other stakeholders. Research papers will be systematically written and submitted to peer-reviewed journals in the fields of agricultural sciences, AI technology, ethics, and social sciences such as the journals “Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture”, “Computers and Electronics in Agriculture” and “Agricultural Systems” by Elsevier. These papers will focus on specific aspects of the project's findings, such as the technological impact of AI on agriculture, social and ethical implications, policy recommendations, and the proposed framework for responsible AI implementation. Writing research papers will contribute to academic discourse and enhance the visibility of the research findings within the scholarly community and beyond.

Successful candidates will receive a yearly stipend (paid monthly) set at the UKRI rate - for 2024/5 this will be £19,237. Harper Adams University is unfortunately unable to offer a fee waiver for international students applying and evidence of funding will be required for International Fee paying students to show they can cover the difference between the UK and international fees for the full four years - for the 2024/5 academic year this amount is £10,890. However, scholarships maybe be available at the time of appointment to cover the difference between UK and International fees for the duration of the programme.

Applicants must hold a minimum of a 2:1 or equivalent bachelor's degree in an appropriate subject /high grade point average bachelor's degree for international applicants or a 2.2 alongside a suitable Master's Degree. Potential for research based on alternative qualifications/experience as judged acceptable by the university, will be considered on a case by case basis.

Candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Dimitrios Iakovidis to discuss the project before applying if they wish to.

Apply Online

Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector. With around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects. Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange. Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began - and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

Harper Adams University is internationally recognised for the quality of its research, as evidenced by the Research Excellence Framework 2022. In order to maintain and uphold the high standards of our research, we continue to undertake initiatives to ensure that integrity, ethics and excellence are at the core of our research activities and fully embedded in our research culture.


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