Austria is taking an innovative approach to checking if its farms are meeting the conditions to receive billions in European Union (EU) agriculture subsidies. The process of determining eligibility can often be complex and costly for national authorities. The solution? Using satellite technology.

Gregor Schusterschitz, the Austrian Ambassador to the EU, recently presented his country’s plans at a conference in Brussels. By using image data from satellites, the project would make monitoring the area-based support measures within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) easier.

Austria to Use Satellites for Monitoring Agricultural Subsidies

Bernhard Eder of AgrarMarkt Austria, a corporation that partly handles funding administration, explains that €1.5 billion has been allocated to area-based measures in Austria in this funding period. This covers direct payments, environmental measures, and other important aspects of the CAP.

To determine if a farm qualifies for subsidies, the responsible authorities must know how the land is being used, down to the individual parcel. This can be time-consuming for the authorities, but with a more automated system, the process can be streamlined. The program can use satellite data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel missions to decide if a farm meets the criteria for funding.

David Kolitzus from GeoVille, the company providing the program, explains that the program can detect crops, mown grassland, and buildings on arable land, even if it is not allowed. However, there are still some areas that are “not clearly identifiable.” Efforts are underway to minimize these instances and simplify the manual checking process.

AgarMarkt Austria has developed a special app to further simplify the process. Farmers can send a georeferenced picture of the field to the relevant authority, which serves as proof of the land’s usage. This improves communication and eliminates the need for paper pre-prints and on-site inspections by the authorities.

While representatives of farmers’ organizations have expressed concern on the news of Austria to Use satellites for monitoring agricultural subsidies and the acceptance of the automated monitoring system, Eder remains optimistic. Farmers without smartphones would have to be offered an alternative communication channel, such as e-mail, and the data protection is ensured as the system only processes image data in anonymized form.

Austria’s use of satellite technologies could be a model for other EU countries facing similar challenges in implementing the CAP. The project demonstrates how technology can be used to simplify complex processes and make them more efficient.