On-farm inspections to ensure farmers are meeting the standards set by Red Tractor assurance are set to resume on Monday (6 July), following two months of “virtual-only” assessments.
The assurance body first moved to virtual assessments in April, as the coronavirus lockdown removed the possibility of certifiers making actual farm visits.
The move coincided with the launch of a new online portal, enabling scheme members and new applicants to upload the basic documentation that forms part of an assessment, either in advance, or on the day.
The actual inspections were then carried out using live-streaming technologies, such as smartphones or tablets.
Over the past two months, some 6,300 remote assessments have been completed, while 2,000 have signed up to the online portal – described by Red Tractor as “a confidential online filing cabinet”.
But, with lockdown restrictions being eased, on-farm inspections are set to resume.
Initially, they will be targeted at the following groups:
- new applicants wishing to become Red Tractor assured
- those who have been identified as “poorer performers” as part of Red Tractor’s risk-based approach
- those for whom live streaming is not a credible option, due to connectivity or technology issues.
Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley said he was delighted with how well the new virtual approach had worked, indicating that for many it would remain a permanent feature.
“Increasingly, our farmers are recognising the benefits of remote assessments, not only as a viable solution for now, but as a real asset for the future, helping to overcome some of the geographic and biosecurity challenges they often face,” he said.
At this stage, most inspections will continue to be conducted remotely, with a further 2,500 booked over the coming weeks.
But with both virtual and on-farm assessments now up and running, the intention is to return to making all inspections compulsory from 6 July.
“With more than 2,200 members already using the Red Tractor Portal, and nine out of 10 farmers finding it a helpful and easy-to-use resource, it is expected that most members will opt to use it for the paper-based reporting element of assessments [in future],” said a statement.