Data-Driven Sustainability: Metrics, Digital Technologies, and Governance in Food and Agriculture*

Maki Hatanaka, Jason Konefal, Johann Strube, Leland Glenna, David Conner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In recent years, performance metrics and digital technologies have gained substantial support to advance on-farm sustainability. The combined use of metrics and digital technologies represents a potentially important shift in agricultural sustainability governance, which has largely been dominated by the use of standards and certification. Focusing on the U.S. context, this paper examines the operationalization of the emerging metrics and data (M&D) approach to sustainability governance in food and agriculture. Specifically, we analyze the factors undergirding the growing usage of an M&D approach to sustainability, the structure, and practices of such an approach as well as the roles and implications for key actors in agrifood systems. Our analysis indicates that although an M&D approach to an agricultural sustainability transition potentially addresses some of the critiques and limitations associated with the use of standards and certification and has the growing support of a range of stakeholders, it also faces numerous challenges. These include a lack of incentives and insufficient value for growers, concerns over data ownership and access, and barriers to the translation of data into changes in grower management and practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-230
Number of pages25
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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