Future agricultural systems and the role of digitalization for achieving sustainability goals. A review
By leveraging a wide range of novel, data-driven technologies for agricultural production and agri-food value chains, digital agriculture presents potential enhancements to sustainability across food systems. Accordingly, digital agriculture has received considerable attention in policy in recent years, with emphasis mostly placed on the potential of digital agriculture to improve efficiency, productivity and food security, and less attention given to how digitalization may impact other principles of sustainable development, such as biodiversity conservation, soil protection, and human health, for example. Here, we review high-level policy and law in the German and European context to highlight a number of important institutional, societal, and legal preconditions for leveraging digital agriculture to achieve diverse sustainability targets. Additionally, we combine foresight analysis with our review to reflect on how future frame conditions influencing agricultural digitalization and sustainability could conceivably arise. The major points are the following: (1) some polices consider the benefits of digital agriculture, although only to a limited extent and mostly in terms of resource use efficiency; (2) law as it applies to digital agriculture is emerging but is highly fragmented; and (3) the adoption of digital agriculture and if it is used to enhance sustainability will be dependent on future data ownership regimes.