Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 199–213 | Cite as

Diversity in agricultural technology adoption: How are automatic milking systems used and to what end?

  • Rebecca L. Schewe
  • Diana Stuart


Adoption of technology in agriculture can significantly reorganize production and relationships amongst humans, animals, technology, and the natural environment. However, the adoption of agricultural technology is not homogenous, and diversity in integration leads to a diversity of outcomes and impacts. In this study, we examine the adoption of automated milking systems (AMS) in small and midsize dairy farms in the US Midwest, the Netherlands, and Denmark. In contrast to technological determinism, we find significant variation amongst adopters in the implementation of AMS and corresponding variation in outcomes. Adopters have significant discretion in determining the use of AMS, which leads to a diversity of possible outcomes for family and non-family labor, human–cow relationships, animal welfare, the environment, and financial resiliency. Adoption and implementation are shaped by both structural factors, such as debt load and labor market variation, and by farmers’ individual personality traits and values, such as a willingness (or not) to release control to technology. Rather than uniform adoption and impacts of technology, we highlight the importance of context, the co-constitution of technology and users, and the diversity of technology adoption and its associated impacts.


Technology Environment Labor Animal welfare Dairy farming Animal studies 



This project was funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The authors would like to thank colleagues at W.K. Kellogg Biological Station and graduate student Matthew McDermott.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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