Purpose of the tool
The EcoFarm Assessment and Decision (EAD) Tool is a central part of the CAPTIVATE project which aims to connect the common agricultural policy (CAP) of the European Union with proven and innovative good eco-management practices on farms. Beside on-farm sustainability assessment, one of the tool’s main objectives is to support farmers in selecting appropriate CAP measures to meet specific farm conditions and to improve environmental sustainability performance. This will lead to better understanding and more effective implementation of CAP measures, and will have a positive impact on the environment, as more farmers will be supported to properly implement the measures.
Development of the tool
The first step of the development process was to define main properties of the prospective tool and delimiting parameters for system boundaries. Beyond sustainability assessment, the tool should have the following properties: benchmarking, capacity building, knowledge management, decision support, and communication of results. Further, the tool should to respond to different geographical settings according to the project countries (Hungary, Slovakia, and Croatia). The structure of the tool based on alignment and the aimed properties were discussed with selected experts of the participating project countries and the whole CAPTIVATE project team.
System and analysis limits
At the beginning of the development process, system boundaries had to be defined in order to describe the framework of the system under study. In our case, the system boundaries include the entire farm, encompassing all branches of farming, but limiting its scope to the agricultural sector and primary production (excluding tourism, processing, etc.).
The EAD tool was primary designed to increase on-farm ecological sustainability and therefore encompasses mainly the environmental dimension of sustainability. However, also socio-economic aspects as a supplementary risk assessment were integrated to reflect complex system interactions, which have an impact on the farms’ sustainability performance (also at the supplier and marketing level - see figure). The level of detail for the on-farm sustainability assessment was determined by the need for user-friendliness and easy applicability. The aim was that users are able to conduct a self-assessment within two hours of time.
Figure. Analyzed system of the EAD Tool
The system under survey also includes the 10 most important farm types (14 farm types FADN – ranked by number) with a sum of at least 90% of farms and of agricultural area in each project country, excluding e.g. mushrooms, beekeeping and forestry. The area observed includes the agricultural area (excluding home gardens, private areas with trees, etc.), husbandry (excluding animals for private use), and effects on and through nearby areas.
For the development of the indicator set, we reflected on criteria and indicators of existing tools and standards for sustainability assessment and scientific literature. The selection of indicators is therefore based on internationally recognized standards in the field of sustainability assessment in agriculture, i.e. SAFA Guidelines and established methodologies in the field of sustainability assessment, such as SMART (Sustainability Monitoring and Assessment Routine).
More information about the EAD tool will be available soon on the CAPTIVATE website. At the end of the CAPTIVATE project (end of year 2024) the completed EAD tool will be free of charge and publicly available as open source tool via the knowledge platform of the CAPTIVATE project.
Authors: Richard Petrasek, Friedrich Leitgeb