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The digitalisation of agriculture

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, March 02, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

3 Year PhD Studentship available for September 2020

Department: School of Geography, Geology and the Environment. Funded by the ESRC Midlands Graduate School Doctoral Training Partnership

Supervisors: Professor Martin Phillips (Leicester) and Dr Steven Emery (Birmingham)

Eligibility: To check your eligibility, visit

Project Title: The digitalisation of agriculture

Project Description: The student will work under the supervision of Professor Martin Phillips (University of Leicester), and Dr Steven Emery (University of Birmingham) to study how farmers and other inhabitants of agricultural landscapes engage with and are impacted by the growing reach of digitalisation within farming. Recent years have seen the emergence of series of forms of digitalisation in agriculture, including use of GPS navigation and digital monitoring to facilitate precision delivery of agricultural inputs; digital sensors on farm equipment, land and animals used alongside information from data-bases and remotely-sensed imagery from satellites, planes and drones; the streaming of data to cloud-based servers to facilitate the aggregation of 'big data' and algorithmic-based data analysis.

While existing research has often focused on technical aspects of agricultural digitalisation, this research will develop a more critical perspective exploring issues such as the role of digitalisation plays in the formation of new social and more-than-social relations operating in the farm; transformations in farming knowledge, decision-making, practice and identities associated with digitalisation; the extent to which digitalisation creates new or reproduces existing social divisions and inequalities; and the degree to which impacts can be resisted through the development of more 'open source' forms of digitalisation and the continuation of analogue practices.

The PhD will involve an examination of digitalisation arable and pasture dominated areas of the Midlands, and will employ interviews with agricultural advisors, equipment suppliers and policy makers as well as farmers, plus in-depth ethnographic research and the use of digital videoing and photography to examine everyday engagements with agricultural digitalisation.

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject. The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

How to apply

To be considered for this PhD, please complete the Joint Studentship application form available online here: a cover letter and CV, and email these to . Shortlisted applicants will also be required to provide two references. Interviews will be held on the 12th March 2020.


Project / Funding Enquiries:
Application enquiries to
Closing date for applications Monday 2nd March 2020.

Funding Notes

The ESRC studentships cover fees and maintenance stipend and extensive support for research training, as well as research activity support grants. Where necessary, the studentship will fund the completion of the one-year Masters in Social Science Research prior to the three-year PhD project.

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