Computerisation of the LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) audit & performance monitoring system

This project involved the development of computer software development in two areas:

  1. The LEAF Audit - software used by the farmers to complete the audit.
  2. The management and analysis package - software used by LEAF to manage and analyse the returned audits.

A prototype of the LEAF audit software was developed by January 1998 and was piloted amongst 20 farmers. It was essentially a digital version of the paper audit with the addition of several computerised documents, similar to those in EMA, to provide a library of advice. So rather than ticking pieces of paper you check boxes on screen, and rather than juggling with several books you simply click through a document or from one document to another. The feedback obtained from pilot was used to improve the software and new version was launched at the end of March 1998.

The management and analysis package was developed alongside the LEAF audit software. This package managed the distribution of the LEAF audit software and processes the returned audits that are now in a digital format. The returned audits were analysed individually and collectively. The package automatically collated statistics on the responses to the questions in the audit from the all the returned audits each year. It also generates a performance profile and text report for individual farms, which was been given the name the LEAF Performance Monitor.

The performance profile is a graphical representation of the farm's performance in each of the seven audit areas. The scoring system used to produce this profile was developed over a number of months and involved several meetings of a panel of experts to examine each audit and award scores for responses to audit questions. This panel had representatives from LEAF, UH, FRCA, ITE and RAC. This profile allowed performance to be monitored from year to year, thus tracking progress.

The text report provided a number of suggestions on how to improve farming practices based on how you responded to the questions in the audit. It was generated from a base of knowledge drawn from various documents including Codes of Good Agricultural Practice, LEAF Documents, and research papers. The statistics collated from the audit returns for each year were presented alongside each suggestion providing a benchmark of the level of adoption of the suggested practice by LEAF farms.

The computerisation of the LEAF audit and the development of the management package provided farmers with a valuable management tool. The development of performance assessment process and generation of text report provided feedback that helped identify key areas where improvements can be made. The digitising of the whole process also reduced the amount of paper work involved and increased the speed at which audits were processed and feedback provided.

Much of the work undertaken above formed the foundation of LEAF's current online version of the LEAF audit.


Dr John Tzilivakis


University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2017.