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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Urban Bites and Agrarian Bytes: Digital Agriculture and Extended Urbanization

  • Author(s): Ravis, Timothy;
  • Notkin, Benjamin
  • et al.

Capitalist agriculture faces a crisis. Plateauing yields and profits are driving up food prices, and the ability to continue the traditional practice of expanding into new, un-commodified territories appears to be waning. This crisis is due in large part to the accelerating biophysical contradictions of industrial agriculture, which systematically undermine the ecological conditions for its own success in pursuit of profit. We investigate how digital technologies are deployed as a potential data fix that does not solve the crisis but merely staves it off. We situate these technologies within the material context of capitalist urbanization, along the way arguing for bringing information back into the neo-Lefebvrian framework of “extended” or “planetary” urbanization. Digital agriculture technologies continue the centralization of economic knowledge and power as they facilitate the transformation of vast territories into “operational landscapes” that provide the material, energy, and labor for a rapidly expanding urban system.

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