Digital agriculture is the ability to convert precise and massive data into actionable knowledge to support complex decision-making on farms. Building such data-intensive applications for agriculture requires new infrastructure to support data collection, transmission, and processing on farms. Social science research has demonstrated that existing rural infrastructure (e.g. Internet, power, roads) is less robust, more prone to breakdown, and less likely to be repaired than urban infrastructure. Yet, emerging infrastructures such as digital agriculture (DA) are expected to be layered over this unreliable base infrastructure. We define this lack of resilience as infrastructural fragility. This research aims to address the infrastructural fragility and advance the state of the art using critical technical practice, a socio-technical approach that combines hands-on system building and deployments with critical reflection on technical decision-making and its social contexts.
In this talk, I will discuss two research thrusts that advance this research agenda. The first thrust investigates how to build data-intensive agricultural applications despite rural infrastructural challenges. We present the Software-Defined Farm (SDF) system, a flexible platform that connects disparate software and hardware to collect, transmit, and analyze farm data while addressing the challenges of Internet connectivity and fault tolerance that undermine the resilience of rural networks. The second thrust analyzes how current methods of rural networking infrastructure development undermine its resilience. By using the SDF implementation and deployments as sites of analysis, we demonstrate that resilience is undermined by creating an illusion of seamlessness. Reciprocally, the analysis of how resilience may be unintentionally undermined will be used to improve the system development. I will conclude the talk with an overview of future work advancing this research agenda further.
Gloire Rubambiza (he/him/his) is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Cornell University. Co-advised by Hakim Weatherspoon (CS) and Phoebe Sengers (InfoSci & STS), he conducts research in hybrid cloud computing with an emphasis on societal impact. Specifically, he designs, implements, deploys, and anticipates the societal impact of computing systems for digital agriculture (DA). DA converts massive sensor data into actionable insights for decision-making on US farms. At Cornell, he was a University Fellow, a fellow of NSF National Research Traineeship in Digital Plant Science, and an active member of the NSF Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS) and the Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture (CIDA). He regularly publishes in ACM, USENIX, IEEE conferences in computer systems/networking and human-computer interaction (e.g., CHI, ATC, etc). Beyond his research, Gloire is passionate about broadening participation in computing, for which he recently won the Cornell Bowers CIS Distinguished Leadership in Service Award, a SUNY Provost Diversity Fellowship and the Best Doctoral Presentation in the Doctoral Consortium at the 2023 Richard A. Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference. In his free time, Gloire enjoys soccer, travel, and cooking.