Internet of farms to reduce red tape and enable more transparency

EU satellite-based systems are provided free of charge and bring benefits in every phase of farming operations. [PAVLE BUGARSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK]

Precision farming could help cut bureaucracy in the first pillar of the next CAP and establish a better connection between consumers and producers, stakeholders and lawmakers said at a show of EU satellite-based systems for agricultural purposes on Wednesday (5 September).

As administrative simplification will be the keyword for the next Common Agricultural Policy, and smart farming tools using satellite systems could contribute to product solutions that effectively reduce red tape burden for farmers and inspection authorities.

Organised by the GSA, the European agency in charge of managing operations and service provision of Galileo and EGNOS, and by the farmer’s lobby Copa-Cogeca, Space and Agriculture Day was intended to show how satellites can streamline farming in the near future.

Navigational aspects are the backbone of digitalisation in every sector and agriculture is no exception. Copernicus provides detailed pictures of fields, Galileo indicates the position, while EGNOS is an additional tool that corrects the signal, which could be distorted due to atmospheric disturbances.

All the three together lower the number of required on-the-spot-checks, making them easier. And granting a better spending of taxpayers money, a participant of the event argued.

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The European Commission is considering new proposals to encourage the use of technologies to monitor farm parcels receiving subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), an EU official told EURACTIV.com.

Better recording

A fully integrated system combining Earth observation data provided by Copernicus and the high-performance Galileo signals allows for more precise records and is less time-intensive to implement. Accurate positioning is crucial to know all the details of a field and geotagged high-resolution photos could be used by farmers to declare parcel boundaries and type of crop cultivated.

“Farmers must keep precise records in order to comply with legislation. Nowadays they make declarations and then inspectors are sent in the field to measure and confirm that declaration.” a GSA official told EURACTIV,

“With the combination of E-GNSS and Galileo, nobody else will go there in the future, with fewer burdens for everyone,” the official said.

Slovenian MEP Franc Bogovič, who is also a farm producer and already uses digital tools, said “the first priority of next CAP is less bureaucracy. It can be helpful for the feasibility of farmers’ work if it would be not necessary to visit many times farms.”

Improving transparency

“Data can be safely shared between industries and authorities, simplifying regulatory oversight and making it more efficient, modern and fair,” said secretary general of Copa-Cogeca Pekka Pesonen.

“Use of satellites and data can help us create an internet of food, improving collaboration, strengthening digital expertise and moving toward a smart regulation.”

Asked by EURACTIV about other perks of digitalisation, he said: “Precision farming is a must. This technology will be enabled to demonstrate to side consumers what farmers do and how to do it. This is something completely different from the past and that’s why it’s of a crucial importance.”

“We are very much interested in telling consumers and citizens how their foods are produced. We have nothing to hide, but a lot to lose if we do not do this,” Pesonen added.

Free tools available for all

Satellite-based systems are provided free of charge. “It’s basically the same signal used in our iPhones,” an expert said. If traditionally the barrier to precision agriculture has been a substantial equipment investment and costly ongoing subscriptions, the European Global Navigation Satellite System will change this equation.

The EGNSS provides an affordable precision solution, thanks to excellent positioning and timing information that further improves the performance of GNSS-assisted agriculture and brings benefits in every phase of the farming operation.

This technology was developed for civilian use, unlike Russian and US ones, which were originally conceived for military purposes. This opens a lot of possibilities that can be used by innovative businesses and public administrations to provide an array of services that improve the quality of life.

“I hope there will be legislators’ awareness that European space is entering a new phase. The system is there, what we need now is the market adaptation, financial tools and capacity to boost more and more applications and services,” the GSA executive director Carlo des Dorides told EURACTIV.

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