Predicting which farms are most likely to breach nitrate pollution regulations

Pete Lunn (ESRI), Seán Lyons (ESRI), Martin Murphy (ESRI)

We present an example of how so-called “big data” can be used to assist enforcement of environmental regulations. Every year approximately 2,000 farms in Ireland violate the EU Nitrates Regulations.

Although small as a proportion of over 130,000 farms, this number has varied little in recent years, reducing water quality and leading to penalties for farmers.

We analysed the characteristics of farms and farmers that had exceeded the regulatory limit on nitrogen per hectare (NPH).

We combined digital files from the Department of Agriculture to generate a single dataset containing over 1.2 million records that detail annual nitrates emissions on individual Irish farms from 2006 to 2015.

The aim was twofold: to understand factors behind noncompliance and to build a predictive model that can be used to target behavioural interventions designed to help farmers to comply.

Leave a Reply