Digitalisation in Agriculture: Knowledge and Learning Requirements of German Dairy Farmers


  • Michael Goller Paderborn University, Germany
  • Carina Caruso Paderborn University, Germany
  • Christian Harteis Paderborn University, Germany



Work-Based Learning, Organisational Change, Digital Competences, Qualitative Research, Digitalisation, Farming, Dairy, VET, Vocational Education and Training


Purpose: This study aims at investigating how digitalisation (in the sense of industry 4.0) has changed the work of farmers and how they experience the changes from more traditional work to digitalised agriculture. It also investigates what knowledge farmers require on digitalised farms and how they acquire it. Dairy farming was used as domain of investigation since it, unlike other industries, has strongly been affected by digitalisation throughout the last years.

Method: Exploratory interviews with 10 livestock farmers working on digitalised dairy farms were analysed using qualitative content analysis. A deductive and inductive coding strategy was used. 

Findings: Farming work has changed from more manual tasks towards symbol manipulation and data processing. Farmers must be able to use computers and other digital devices to retrieve and analyse sensor data that allow them to monitor and control the processes on their farm. For this new kind of work, farmers require elaborated mental models that link traditional farming knowledge with knowledge about digital systems, including a strong understanding of production processes underlying their farm. Learning is mostly based on instructions offered by manufacturers of the new technology as well as informal and non-formal learning modes. Even younger farmers report that digital technology was not sufficiently covered in their (vocational) degrees. In general, farmers emphasises the positive effects of digitalisation both on their working as well as private life.

Conclusions: Farmers should be aware of the opportunities as well as the potential drawbacks of the digitalisation of work processes in agriculture. Providers of agricultural education (like vocational schools or training institutes) need to incorporate the knowledge and skills required to work in digitalised environments (e.g., data literacy) in their syllabi. Further studies are required to assess how digitalisation changes farming practices and what knowledge as well as skills linked to these developments are required in the future.


Final Publication Date


How to Cite

Goller, M., Caruso, C., & Harteis, C. (2021). Digitalisation in Agriculture: Knowledge and Learning Requirements of German Dairy Farmers. International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training, 8(2), 208–223.