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Licentiate thesis, 2016

Cognition and decision-making in adoption of agricultural decision support systems

Lundström, Christina

Abstract

Precision agriculture (PA) has a central role to play in a sustainable intensification trajectory of agriculture, including increased yields and decreased environmental impact. Although grounded in advanced technologies this still implies that the individual farmer will have to develop knowledge that is complex, diverse and local. To manage adaptation to the within-field variation in large scale agriculture, so-called agricultural decision support systems (AgriDSS) are necessary. This thesis aims to 1) investigate farmers’ naturalistic decision-making in their socio-technical system, aiming to increase their situated knowledge and care in critical, complex situations, and 2) investigate and present strategies to improve the development processes of AgriDSS. This is done by discussing the so-called problem of implementation of AgriDSS in practical precision agriculture. Aspects of the implementation dilemmas are considered within three research questions: 1) What characterises a socio-technical system that supports farmers’ decision-making in complex and critical situations? 2) How can AgriDSS support farmers’ decision-making and development of situated knowledge, in order to increase sustainability of their practices? 3) How can the development process for new precision agriculture technology, such as AgriDSS, be improved to decrease or go beyond the problem of implementation? The research questions are addressed using the theoretical framework of distributed cognition (DCog) from the research field of cognitive science and using user-centred design (UCD) approach from the field of human-computer interaction. Two case studies were performed and the main contribution is the novel concept of enhanced professional vision, which states that both technology and intuitive experience-based knowledge are necessary in decision-making. Neither one of them is replaceable when an increased adaptation to within-field variation and complexity in farmers’ care for their local situation is needed. The thesis also reveals the importance of social interactions for technology adoption and use: 1) during the participatory development process of AgriDSS; 2) for decision-making and learning when applying these technologies; and 3) to encourage farmers to use new technology to increase sustainability. These findings have potential implications for farmers and advisors, by changing the dominating perspective in farm technologies from knowledge transfer to participatory approaches. The discussions provided here about expertise in relation to ICT, human beings and care in the trajectory of sustainable intensification will hopefully influence how farmers’ experience and situated knowledge is acknowledged in future research and development (R&D). More studies on R&D in advisory work in relation to new technologies and strategies to facilitate their use, and social learning and decision-making among farmers are needed, as are improved possibilities for advisors to interact and exchange experiences and strategies relating to technology use.

Keywords

enhanced professional vision; agricultural decision support systems; farmers’ decision-making; care; situated knowledge; distributed cognition; user-centred design

Published in


ISBN: 978-91-576-9433-1, eISBN: 978-91-576-9434-8
Publisher: Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Agricultural Science

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/77455