RPS currently has a team of approximately 40 people involved in a project tasked with the collection of soil samples from farms throughout Northern Ireland for the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). The scheme is funded under the EU’s Exceptional Adjustment Aid (EAA) Package and includes soil collection and analysis on a field by field basis for participating farms. The purpose of this is to provide the farmers with detailed information on their soils to help optimise nutrient management (i.e. N, P and K) in line with crop requirements. Using this information will enable farmers to target the application of slurry, manure and chemical fertiliser more accurately.
Aside from the large logistical task of uplifting soil samples from farms throughout Northern Ireland, one of the project requirements was to ensure compliance with the new EU data privacy law – General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into effect on 25 May 2018. Organisations need to show that they have considered and integrated data protection into their activities and processes such as risk management and project management. The project management team developed and set out a clear methodology from the outset which was designed to ensure personal data would be managed securely and not circulated as part of the project methodology. To ensure this happened RPS utilised in-house GIS skills to accurately map all fields and to allow soil sample collection without the need for personal data to be passed to the sampling teams.
Using ArcGIS Spatial Analysis RPS are creating sample transects and field maps for the 12,512 fields to be manually sampled. Output map books are provided, with site locations, transect lines, bearings, sample depths and coordinate data to ensure the soil samples are taken in the correct locations. Quality assurance on the sample locations is recorded with GPS points generated to match each sample. This return data is then checked to ensure consistency with the proposed transects and sample locations. This high tech to low tech approach had to be developed given the large number of soil samplers on site at any one time, spread across all of Northern Ireland. No fully digital solution was deemed suitable for this study.
To date the RPS team have collected soil samples from over 6,000 fields and are well on schedule to capture the over 300,000 data points from all 12,512 fields by project completion in March 2018.