A computer-based informal environmental management system for agriculture
This paper discusses a practical, computerised eco-management system for agriculture which has been developed at the University of Hertfordshire, UK for use by farmers and their advisers to encourage more sustainable practices. The research and software development has been funded by the UK's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Milk Development Council. The computerised system helps to measure environmental performance by evaluating an eco-rating that compares actual farm practices and site-specific details with what is perceived to be the best practice for that site using an expert system together with scoring and ranking techniques. The eco-ratings system utilises a positive-negative scale to aid transparency and interpretation. In practical terms this means that undesirable and unsustainable activities will lead to negative eco-ratings. Activities which adhere to the principles of best practice and sustainable agriculture will lead to positive eco-ratings. The zero position may then be interpreted as representing an environmentally benign activity. In support of the assessment, the system incorporates modules to explore “What-If” scenarios and a hypertext information system. This paper describes the approaches and methodologies used to develop the eco-ratings and outlines the software which utilises these indices within a comprehensive decision-support framework.