Automation, Climate Change, and the Future of Farm Work: Cross-Disciplinary Lessons for Studying Dynamic Changes in Agricultural Health and Safety

Matt Comi, Florence Becot, Casper Bendixsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this review, we first assess the state of agricultural health and safety research as it pertains to the dynamic challenges facing automating agriculture on a warming planet. Then, we turn to social science fields such as rural sociology, science and technology studies, and environmental studies to leverage relevant insights on the introduction of new technologies, environmental risks, and associated workplace hazards. Increased rates of automation in agriculture alongside new risks associated with climate change create the need for anticipatory governance and adaptive research to study novel mechanisms of worker health and safety. The use of the PRISMA framework led to the 137 articles for our review. We identify three themes in the literature on agricultural health and safety: (1) adoption outcomes, (2) discrete cases of health risks, and (3) an emphasis on care and wellbeing in literature on dairy automation Our review led to the identification of research gaps, noting that current research (a) tends to examine these forces separately, instead of together, (b) has not made robust examination of these forces as socially embedded, and (c) has hesitated to examine the broad, transferable themes for how these forces work across industries. In response to these gaps, we suggest that attention to outside disciplines may provide agricultural health and safety research with a toolset to examine needed inquiry into the multiplicity of experiences of rural stakeholders, the industry specific problems arising from automation and climate change, and the socially embedded aspects of agricultural work in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4778
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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