The COVID19 Pandemic and lockdowns reinforced the importance of e tools and digital technologies for any monitoring and compliance system of farm payments. During the lockdowns in-person visits are more difficult and can be more risky, especially towards at risk groups or in situations where the virus is spreading rapidly. In such situations it is useful to replace the in person visits (of an advisor completing farm subsidy applications, or of On-The-Spot-Checks) with remote monitoring through digital technologies, which is also an ambition of the Common Agricultural Policy in the new programming period.
The NIVA webinar ‘Digital Technologies & OTSC in times of COVID-19’ that was organised on the 30th of June 2020 explored the policy background to digital technologies and OTSC from the perspective of DG-AGRI, and explored two technologies in detail: Geo Tagged Photos and Machinery Data as both these technologies have the potential to replace an On-The-Spot-Check with a virtual check, and are use cases within the NIVA project (see here for Geo Tagged Photos & here for Machinery Data). Other technologies might also be promising such as drone-technology or Very-High Resolution images.
During the webinar, Joanna Stawowy (DG AGRI) explained ‘Use of new technologies in claim year 2020 and beyond: flexibility offered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as incentive for a true paradigm shift’, from the perspective of the EC. With the COVID 19 pandemic and the lock downs, the EC was able in a very short time to establish an emergency regulation (Regulation 2020/532) allowing member states some flexibility in the execution of OTSC, allowing for the use of satellite/aerial imagery or geo-tagged photo’s with no strict recommendation for one technology in particular. Joanna highlighted that this fits into the gradual process of switching to the Area Monitoring System and Checks-By-Monitoring, and that frontrunners in this respect should benefit from their earlier trials and efforts.
Subsequently Eoin Dooley from DAFM explained what NIVA is doing with the Geotagged Photo app that is being developed as part of the use case. A lot of requirements were collected from different stakeholders to the app (farmers, advisors, DAFM colleagues) through workshops and interviews, using different formats, and even continuing online in the times of COVID 19. This has lead to a good understanding of what the user can and cannot do, and what the paying agency (in this case DAFM) is able to accept or not in terms of proof-of-activity in a location. A prototype of the app is now being developed based on the specifications derived from these feedback rounds. Developments from GSAA app for accurately positioning the person and the object being photographed have been incorporated as well.
In a final presentation Marc Middendorp from RVO showcased NIVA efforts in using machinery data to identify activities on a parcel. He highlighted the importance of Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS), and showed a first demonstrator for tracking a crop management activity based on the sowing of a winter cereal for a cover crop, that could then be tracked through the FMIS and shared with the Paying Agency as additional proof next to the CbM. Standards are very important to allow for these connections between FMIS, Machinery and Paying Agency, hence this use case worked with the e-CROP standard.
Through the presentations the different technologies were explained, along with the progress made in NIVA so far. In a short discussion session participants were asked for feedback and ideas, and responded to a few questions on MentiMeter, as a shared discussion platform. One interesting result of this discussion was a ranking of different potential technologies to reduce the number of required OTSC, and participants there highlighted the importance of Very-High resolution satellite images, or orthophotos an additional source of information. It was suggested that NIVA organise another stakeholder forum Webinar on the role of Very High-Resolution Satellite Images in IACS and AMS.