Digital tools pave the way for climate-friendly reforestation and shorter processing times

Digital tools pave the way for climate-friendly reforestation and shorter processing times

An updated digital system has made it easier and less time-consuming for farmers to apply for agricultural support, and for The Danish Agricultural Agency to control the documentation farmers need to provide to receive funding.

The problem

On the order of 1 billion euros of agricultural support are paid out  to Danish farmers every year. Until recently, however, farmers applying for support had to navigate a complex set of rules using  an archaic digital platform that slowed down the application process.

For instance, when farmers convert farmland back into wild nature – a process known as reforestation – farmers are legible for support from the Danish state. However, documenting the process that leads to those payouts – detecting eligible farm  areas, figuring out which areas belong to which farmer, determining the crops on the field, etc. – has until recently been cumbersome for both farmers and the agency, slowing down the application process.

»Farmers can drive out to a certain field, take a photo, and send it to the agency with an attached GPS location. That saves a lot of time for everyone involved«

Thomas Andersen, Partner in Netcompany

The solution

In 2017, a first step towards making the documentation process easier was taken. The EU-owned Copernicus Sentinel satellites started to provide freely available, high-resolution images to agencies, farmers, and other interested parties. A machine detects whether an area is most likely farmland or forest, what kind of crop is growing on the farmland, and whether there are fallow fields or not.

»Depending on whether the satellite information aligns with the information received from the farmers, the fields are labelled as red, green, or yellow«, Thomas Andersen, a partner in Netcompany, says.

This information is sent to IMK (Internet MarkKort), the digital system that handles and controls applications for agricultural support in Denmark.

Problematic yellow or red fields are handled by an app feature that allows the agency to control documentation at a distance.

»Farmers can drive out to a certain field, take a photo, and send it to the agency with an attached GPS location. That saves a lot of time for everyone involved«, Thomas Andersen says.

When the control process is done, the information is sent to an automated digital grant engine, CAP-TAS, before the support is finally paid out using a payment system, TUS.

Netcompany is responsible for running, maintaining, and updating two of the three systems involved in the process of agricultural support: IMK and TUS (as for TUS, the contract expires in September 2023). Amongst other things, Netcompany has updated the digital system to improve its stability and data maintenance. In the future, the plan is to include AI analysis of control pictures so as to reduce the need for manual control and decision-making even further.

Results

After the last application round, the agency reported that they experienced a more stable system and fewer complaints from the farmers than ever before.

Case processing times has decreased to the benefit of both farmers, the agency, and taxpayers. The updated digital system has also made it easier for farmers to engage in climate-friendly processes such as reforestation, which both improves on the water quality, binds CO2, and protects the supply of drinking water.

»Overall, modernising and automating the agricultural support system has made a big difference, both for the people working at The Danish Agricultural Agency, the farmers, and the taxpayers«, Thomas Andersen says.

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Thomas Andersen

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