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Understanding how digital technologies can lead to the transfer of agricultural innovation

Project Description

Summary: Understanding how knowledge is created and shared in rural farming communities and identifying if this can be digitalised for improved decision making. This project is in Partnership with LTS International

New technologies and approaches are required if the planet is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the rapidly changing world in which we live, local trends (declining yields), shocks (pests, diseases, erratic weather patterns) and local indigenous knowledge of how to adapt to these need to be reported to decision makers and scientists, whilst decision makers and scientists need to be able to feed back to local communities important information from the latest climate models and new seed varieties. In 2018, DFID launched its Digital Strategy to increase the capabilities of digital technology for development. This project seeks to contribute to this strategy and will utilise the unique connections that LTS International has with local partner organisations in Indonesia to explore how innovations in agricultural practices can be shared and new knowledge can be co-created on how to best deal with erratic weather patterns and climate.

Research questions that could be used to frame the work, but could be adapted during the first 12 months of the PhD as the student develops the literature review and works with the CASE Partner.
1 - How are innovations in agricultural practices currently transferred between stakeholders?
2 - What are the processes involved in introduction, adoption and scaling up of digital tools in agriculture?
3 - What are the challenges involved in introducing digital tools in agriculture?
4 - What are the socio-cultural dynamics involved in adoption of digital tools in agriculture?
5 - Can geospatial techniques and big data be used to develop new and innovative approaches to diffusion of innovative practices?

Digital Agriculture is fast emerging, but is it about the technology, or the processes and who benefits and who gets left behind? How do we adopt the right technologies in an inclusive manner? This joint project between NIRAS/LTS Data Futures Hub and UoE will answer these questions. The student will identify with the supervisor team and in collaboration with the CASE partners and the data Futures Hub in Indonesia which locations, agricultural system(s) and innovations on which to focus. The project will involve interdisciplinary research into agricultural innovations which may involve local indigenous knowledge systems as well as precision agriculture. The focus will be on identifying new ways in which to better communicate information and if there are digital technologies that can be implemented that can help the co-creation of this information rather than a linear top-down or bottom-up approach. We anticipate the student will spend a significant amount of time during the PhD based in the Data Futures Hub in Jakarta.

This project would suit a student with an ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment and learn new methods with interests in international development and digital tech in supporting rural livelihoods. It would suit students with a wide range of backgrounds, including but not limited to social sciences, informatics, environmental science.

How to apply: http://www.ed.ac.uk/e4-dtp/how-to-apply
For more information: and see the project webpage: https://www.ed.ac.uk/e4-dtp/how-to-apply/our-projects?item=955 which provides more information on the E3 DTP.

Funding Notes

E4 DTP studentships are fully-funded for a minimum of 3.5 years. They include:
- Stipend based on RCUK minima (currently £15,009 for 2019/2020)
- Fees (Home/EU Fees)
- Research Costs

CASE studentships include a CASE partner which is a non-academic organisation within the public, private or third sector.

They provide:
- expert advice and supervision throughout the PhD;
- a first-rate, challenging research training experience, within the context of a mutually beneficial research collaboration;
- offering a placement at their premises to the student of between 3 and 18 months over the whole PhD.


1 - Lwoga, E.T., Ngulube, P., Stilwell, C. (2014) Managing indigenous knowledge for sustainable agricultural development in developing countries: Knowledge management approaches in the social context, International Information & Library Review, 42(3).

2 - Cummings et al. (2017) Critical discourse analysis of perspectives on knowledge and the knowledge society within the Sustainable Development Goals, Development Policy Review DOI: 10.1111/dpr.12296

3 - FAO (2019) Co-creation and sharing of knowledge: agricultural innovations respond better to local challenges when they are co-created through participatory processes, http://www.fao.org/agroecology/knowledge/10-elements/co-creation-knowledge/en/

4 - Jerven , M. Benefits and costs of the data for development targets for the Post-2015 Development Agenda. United Nations Working Paper, September 16, (2016).

5- NIRAS (2019) The Data Futures Hub https://datafutures.org/

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 14.70

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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