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Tuesday, 9 May 2023, 13h00 – 14h00

Please join us for an academic seminar by Associate Professor Laura Foster from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA who will be talking about ‘Algorithmic Plant Justice: Vegetal Beings, Gendered Relations, and the Governing of Precision Agriculture’.


Precision agriculture or smart farming refers to the use of automated decision-making systems devoted to improving the profitability and sustainability of agriculture by using computational and information technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). They often involve sensors for tracking soil and livestock, and satellites, planes, and drones for overhead sensing of plants and crops. While precision agriculture technologies may provide some opportunities for smallholder women farmers, they may also emerge as a new—yet familiar—system of appropriation and control over their labor and knowledge that evokes legacies of colonial extraction and exploitation. Concurrently, there is a need to address how such technologies continue to reinforce plants as mere objects to be optimized and managed, rather than “smart” beings with their own material forces and ways of knowing that shape our worlds. Robust visions for AI governance must consider how precision agriculture and smart farming are potentially managing, surveilling, and optimizing both women farmers and plants in ways that reinforce hierarchies of knowing and being. In this talk, I begin to consider an approach to the governing of AI that takes both gendered relations and vegetal beings into account.

Seminar details

Date: 9 May 2023
Platform: Hybrid (PLAAS, 2nd Floor, Jakes Gerwel Hall, UWC)
Time:  13:00 – 14:30 Central African Time (CAT)
            12:00 – 13:30 British Summer Time (BST)
            12:00 – 13:30 West African Time (WAT)
            11:00 – Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT) (Ghana)
            14:00 – East African Time (EAT) (Tanzania)

The seminar will be facilitated by Dr. Farai Mtero, senior researcher at PLAAS,  University of the Western Cape.

Register Here

Laura Foster

Associate Professor

Laura Foster is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Affiliate Faculty in African Studies and Law at Indiana University Bloomington in the United States; a Senior Researcher at the Intellectual Property Unit here at the University of Cape Town, Faculty of Law; and a co-lead editor of Catalyst – the leading academic journal in feminist science and technology studies. Her research explores questions of power and inequality at the nexus of law, science, technology, and the nonhuman. In particular, she is interested in relationships of technoscience, governance, gender, race, indigeneity, plants, and justice within the histories of South Africa. Her innovative interdisciplinary research contributes to conversations in feminist science and technology studies (STS), critical plant studies, socio-legal studies, Indigenous and Native studies, African studies, critical intellectual property studies, and feminist data studies. Laura has worked in South Africa and Botswana as both a researcher and a lawyer since 1998, and her current research on precision agriculture and the governing of artificial intelligence in the Western Cape grows out of her interest in plants from her book, Reinventing Hoodia: Peoples, Plants, and Patents in South Africa published in 2017 by both University of Washington and Wits University Press.