Publications

Ethical aspects of AI robots for agri-food; a relational approach based on four case studies

Burg, Simone van der; Giesbers, Else; Bogaardt, Marc Jeroen; Ouweltjes, Wijbrand; Lokhorst, Kees

Summary

These last years, the development of AI robots for agriculture, livestock farming and food processing industries is rapidly increasing. These robots are expected to help produce and deliver food more efficiently for a growing human population, but they also raise societal and ethical questions. As the type of questions raised by these AI robots in society have been rarely empirically explored, we engaged in four case studies focussing on four types of AI robots for agri-food ‘in the making’: manure collectors, weeding robots, harvesting robots and food processing robots which select and package fruits, vegetables and meats. Based on qualitative interviews with 33 experts engaged in the development or implementation of these four types of robots, this article provides a broad and varied exploration of the values that play a role in their evaluation and the ethical questions that they raise. Compared to the recently published literature reviews mapping the ethical questions related to AI robots in agri-food, we conclude that stakeholders in our case studies primarily adopt a relational perspective to the value of AI robots and to finding a solution to the ethical questions. Building on our findings we suggest it is best to seek a distribution of tasks between human beings and robots in agri-food, which helps to realize the most acceptable, good or just collaboration between them in food production or processing that contributes to realizing societal goals and help to respond to the 21 century challenges.