100% of applications from farmers for Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) funding support in the 2018 year were completed online using a system designed and delivered by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), in partnership with local digital company Neueda.
The system was built to increase the accuracy, efficiency and transparency of CAP payments, whilst remaining simple for farmers to use. Driven by this huge online uptake, 97% of the 25,000 NI farmers who applied for funding in May received advance CAP payments by mid-November 2018.
“DAERA’s objective was to create a payment application process that would best deliver efficient results for Northern Ireland farmers and promote transparency,” explained Neil McKeown, Neueda Head of Consulting.
“In the past, paper-based systems did not allow timely validation of the information on the forms resulting in delays processing applications.”
Neueda worked with DAERA to transform the Department’s existing system into a digital solution; building an online application, validation, inspection and payment process.
“Farmers are given an individual login and can review, online, the schemes they are likely to be entitled to apply for. The system then uses geospatial technology, essentially digital mapping, to ensure the validity of claimed fields.
“Additionally, the system can identify multiple errors early in the application process, ensuring any issues are resolved before a final submission is made,” Neil McKeown said.
The number of farmers using DAERA’s online application system has increased steadily from 48% in 2015 to full adoption in 2018.
“With an efficient and effective payment process in place, the system can have a positive economic ripple effect throughout the supply chain – as farmers are able to pay their suppliers faster, and so on.
“For all farmers to make the switch to online applications with no major complications is proof of how digital transformation positively impacts upon businesses and organisations across a wide range of sectors,” Neil McKeown said.
Dundonald-based Dale Farm dairy farmer James Lindsay described his experience of using the online system: “The difference between the paper-based and online CAP application system is huge. I found it to be really user-friendly and the process was very quick.
“A digital system makes life a lot easier for farmers because if you can access the internet, you can complete the form - additionally a lot of the information is checked immediately meaning less errors.”
Gerry Hackett, Digital Services Division at DAERA, commented: “Neueda helped us meet very challenging requirements and extremely tight deadlines to develop this ground-breaking personalised Single Application. The unprecedented take up by farmers across Northern Ireland facilitated record-breaking levels of payments and aided the Department in issuing early advanced payments to 97% of farm businesses in November 2018. This achievement has had far-reaching benefits for the wider agricultural and business community.
“Throughout the development process we adopted a collaborative approach, engaging closely with internal teams responsible for making the payments and stakeholders across the farming community. Neueda’s open and flexible way of working allowed us to embrace agile ways of working to ensure that we could develop the application in line with ongoing feedback from key stakeholders and end users of the system.
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the DAERA and Neueda teams, along with active participation of the agricultural community, together we have delivered a robust, personalised and intuitive system that will benefit Northern Ireland farmers for years to come.”