Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Socio-economic and environmental sustainability of digitalized fruit production

Project description

Agriculture is currently experiencing a digital revolution. The present demands from citizens, farmers, and politicians for sustainable and modernized agriculture have pushed the digitalization of agricultural technologies, i.e. the application of data and information technologies to improve a farming system. As advancements are made in the crop cultivation sector of agriculture, a divide is growing between supporters of digitalization and skeptics who are concerned with developing technologies, their costs and benefits, their applications and short- and long-term impacts. Digitalization in fruit and vegetable cultivation, in small and medium-sized farms, and organic producers is almost irrelevant in the current dialogue. While there is evidence that digital technologies offer the potential to deliver a step change in productivity and profitability across the value chain, hardly anything is known about the perceptions of potential users and the conducive social and institutional conditions required to realize this potential benefit. For the producers and agencies providing financial aid for research and development of these technologies, it is crucial to understand the current perspectives of the stakeholders in the field, as well as the socio-economic and ecological impacts digitalization can have on fruit production.

The objective of this cumulative PhD is to explore the knowledge and views of stakeholders, in particular their needs and expectations regarding the contribution of digital technologies in fruit production towards increased sustainability. While improved sustainability (socio-economic and environmental) is the priority of this research, other critical takeaways will be gained: by understanding stakeholder perspectives, the conditions (socio-economic, technical) which would enable the adoption of digital technologies can be analyzed in order to successfully conceptualize and implement future agricultural policy changes, research initiatives, and business strategies.

The methods employed to achieve these objectives include a media analysis, qualitative content analysis of a series of semi-structured stakeholder interviews, and socio-economic sustainability indicator selection and assessment.

The area of investigation is fruit production in the Lake Constance region, one of the largest and most important fruit growing areas in Germany with 19,992 ha of area (28% of Germany’s total fruit production area) with a clear dominance of apple and pears (7,500 ha) cultivated by about 4,000 farms (Statistisches Landesamt 2013).

Administrative data

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Claudia Bieling (University of Hohenheim)
Advisor: Dr. Christine Rösch
Related projects: DESIRA
Doctoral students at ITAS: see Doctoral studies at ITAS


Kirsten Gaber, M.Sc.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-26437