Mallon Technology

Case Study

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs

The Problem

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has the responsibility for food, farming, environmental, fisheries, forestry and sustainability policy and the development of the rural sector in Northern Ireland. Assisting the sustainable development of the agri–food, environmental fishing and forestry sectors of Northern Ireland, DAERA helps to protect human, animal and plant health, the health of animals and the conservation and enhancement of the environment.

As part of its work, DAERA collects data on crop areas, livestock numbers and farm labour. This data is used for statistical and administrative purposes as well as helping to develop and monitor policies, and/or provide information that stimulates developments. This data is collected by the Statistics and Analytical Services Branch (SASB) within DAERA who required that data captured on hard copy statistical questionnaires be converted into a digital format for subsequent validation and processing. Data from the questionnaires needed to be captured on an annual basis, over a six–year period, as set out by DAERA.

What We Did

SASB collect information from four different types of questionnaire, that all needed to be digitally captured. These are:

  • The June Agricultural and Horticultural Survey (conducted annually between June and September, volume circa. 11,500 forms to process per annum, except for 2020 where an expected 14,500 forms will require processing)
  • The December Agricultural and Horticultural Survey (conducted annually during December and January, volume circa. 3,000 forms)
  • The annual inventory of Sheep (conducted annually during December and January, volume circa. 11,500 cards)
  • The EU Farm Structure Survey (planned for 2020, volume circa. 14,500 forms)

Mallon Technology has been processing the contract in weekly batches. Batches are collected every Monday morning, during the census period, with the final data and images delivered to SASB every Friday. Each batch consists of 20 bundles of forms, which in turn is made up of 1,000 A3 survey forms or 2,000 A5 survey cards.

Images are captured using our A3 feed/flatbed scanning equipment to ensure all documents are handled safely, maintaining the integrity of the original documents. All images are captured in 24–bit colour at 200dpi with a master image saved as uncompressed (lossless) TIFF for preservation. Surrogate PDF derivatives are then created from the master TIFF image and used in the data capture phase of the project.

The data is captured manually from the images and then passed onto the quality audit team to ensure that the quality level exceeds 98% as required in the contract. final delivery of the survey data was conducted using an electronic file format in a tab–delimited text format. Scanned images were then returned via SFTP (set up by DAERA SASB). once complete, the original bundles were securely returned to DAERA SASB offices and the next batch collected.

The Benefits

  • DAERA SASB can access the data and information from their hard copy surveys in a quick and timely manner
  • Captured data can now easily be used for statistical analysis
  • A secure digital backup of the census data will ensure DAERA never lose access to their records
  • Documents can be accessed by multiple staff at the same time
  • Digital copies of the surveys will help to ensure their lasting integrity for the foreseeable future