At the cutting edge: Saxony-Anhalt uses satellite technology to monitor agricultural land

Satellite-based area monitoring relating to EU agricultural subsidies replaces on-the-spot checks and improves digital communications

Regular on-the-spot checks are carried out to ensure compliance with the subsidy criteria, obligations and other regulations as a part of the EU subsidy program for agricultural land. The aim of these inspections is to determine whether the declared areas and crops are correct and whether mowing is carried out at the correct time, for example to provide better protection for ground-breeding birds. To simplify the checks both for the administrative bodies and the agricultural businesses, in the last year Saxony-Anhalt has introduced satellite-based monitoring of the areas and improved digital communication. In addition, the cabinet has agreed that Saxony-Anhalt will provide technical and financial support for the development and operation of a center of excellence for area monitoring covering all the German states as part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Digitalization leads to less bureaucracy

Agriculture Minister Professor Claudia Dalbert explained: “Saxony-Anhalt is at the cutting edge when it comes to digitalizing the administration processes in the agricultural sector. We are one of the first states in Germany to introduce the automated evaluation of satellite data. As a result, many of the on-the-spot checks are no longer needed and corrective measures can be taken in good time. This reduces the workload for farmers and for the administrative teams. Digitalization is leading to less bureaucracy. We are forging ahead with digitalizing the agricultural sector in our state!”

Satellite-based monitoring replaces on-the-spot checks

The area monitoring system observes the agricultural areas covered by EU subsidies on the basis of Sentinel satellite images. All the areas are automatically checked using satellite image time series (approximately every five days) for compliance with certain subsidy requirements, regulations and obligations. This means that some of the on-the-spot checks are no longer needed.

This digital evaluation process is already being used for all area-based measures relating to agricultural land in Saxony-Anhalt. Firstly, a check is made to ensure that the crop specified in the geographical application is being cultivated and that the agricultural activities on permanent grassland and the minimum activities on set-aside land have been carried out. Other subsidy criteria, obligations and regulations will be added in 2022, such as the maintenance of permanent grassland.

Preliminary results available on the online application portal

In addition, in 2021 the preliminary results in the form of a result layer in the GIS view were made available to agricultural businesses via the application portal PROFIL INET ST. Much closer cooperation and transparent communication will help to ensure better compliance with the regulations and the use of subsidy funding for its intended purpose.

App for geotagged photos

More methods of communication will also be developed during the course of the application year, such as a photo app for smartphones. This will allow farmers to send geotagged photos to the authority granting the funding to prove that they are meeting their subsidy criteria, obligations and other regulations, without an on-the-spot check by the administrative team being needed.

Corrective measures in good time

Area monitoring also makes it possible for farmers to change their applications until September 30, 2021, providing that the requirements of the direct support schemes and the relevant area-based measures for the development of rural areas are being met. This option is particularly useful when farmers are informed by the administrative body about the results of the area monitoring process and therefore want to amend the details of their application. However, changes are no longer possible if the administrative team has already made findings during the course of on-the-spot or administrative checks or has announced that on-the-spot checks will be carried out.


Under the provisions of article 40a of Implementing Regulation (EU) No 809/2014, the member states of the European Union have had the option of introducing an area monitoring system since 2018. Saxony-Anhalt is one of three federal German states to begin the process this year. The proposed regulations for the new subsidy period from 2023 to 2027 make the use of an area monitoring system mandatory as part of the integrated administration and control system.

In January 2021, the federal states agreed to set up a national center of excellence for area monitoring in the context of the new CAP. Saxony-Anhalt is making an annual contribution of 53,000 euros to the project. The center has the task of coordinating the states’ activities, ensuring that information is shared and providing methodological expertise. The cooperation between the German federal government and the states comes into effect in mid-August.