What does "VERA" stand for?
VERA = "Verification of environmental technologies for agricultural production"
VERA is a multinational cooperation between Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany for testing and verification of environmental technologies in the agricultural sector. Other European countries, like e. g. Belgium, Austria, France and Switzerland have already raised their interest to join the cooperation.
Who initiated VERA?
VERA was initiated in 2008 by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (Danish EPA), the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) and the German Association for Technology and Structures in Agriculture (KTBL) on behalf of the German Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV).
What is the purpose of VERA?
To meet the environmental challenges within the agricultural sector several new technologies are developed each year in the EU member states and elsewhere. These technologies are referred to as environmental technologies. Farmers, authorities and other central stakeholders however only have limited information on their performance which hampers the wider use of these technologies within the agricultural sector. Basically the goal of VERA is to fill this information gap by offering independent verification of the environmental technologies' performance based on specific test protocols. Thus, VERA will provide reliable and comparable information on technologies.
In several countries environmental technologies for agricultural production are already tested. Often however, the test results are only approved in the country the test has been conducted due to the fact that different test methods applied fail international acceptance.
The creation of a cross-border, standardized test and verfication programme for technologies in the European agricultural sector as well as the promotion of a well-functioning market for emission reducing technologies in the European agriculture is VERA's main target.
What is a VERA verification?
A VERA verification is a third-party confirmation that a technology has been tested according to a specific VERA test protocol.
What is a VERA test protocol?
A VERA test protocol is a document where the rules and methods for testing the environmental performance of technologies are stated and which manufacturers are required to comply with in order to have their technologies verified by VERA. The test methods include the strategy and techniques to measure technologies' environmental performance and operational stability.
The scientific knowledge on emission and emission impacts as well as on optimal measurement methods are continuously developing. Therefore the test protocols are regularly updated according to the current status of research and science.
At this moment VERA test protocols are available for the following technologies:
What is a VERA Verification Statement?
Technologies which are tested in accordance to the relevant VERA test protocol and have been accepted by the multinational VERA expert group can be awarded with a VERA Verification Statement. It documents the environmental efficiency and operational stability of a technology. A VERA Verification Statement is product-specific and is only valid for the tested product. Upon amendments it must be proven that this has no negative impacts on its performance. With regards to the environmental efficiency the focus is currently set on the reduction of ammonia, odour and dust.
Who can conduct the tests required to have an environmental technology verified by VERA?
Any organisation can conduct the required tests as long as they fulfil all the requirements and qualifications stated in the General VERA Guidelines and in the VERA test protocols. For test laboratories this includes mainly to fulfil the requirements of the ISO 17025 and sufficient expertise for measurements in an agricultural environment.
What is an environmental technology?
Environmental technologies are defined as technologies that enhance the level of eco-efficiency in a given production by reducing material inputs, emission of pollutants, energy consumption, recover valuable by-products or minimize waste disposal problems.
The term environmental performance refers therefore also to technologies' impact on the level of eco-efficiency of a given production.
How does VERA affect the market for environmental technologies for agricultural production?
Supplying central stakeholders with essential and reliable information on environmental technologies' performance basically reduces the level of uncertainty connected to these technologies. It makes it easier for different stakeholders to decide how these technologies can be used in agricultural production.
VERA tested products offer a range of technologies which have proven their environmental efficiency and operational stability. Thus, they facilitate investment decisions for the farmer. Authorities achieve an independent third-party confirmation of the performance based on scientific measurements. Manufacturers of emission reducing technologies obtain the unique possibility to gain recognition for the VERA tested product in various European countries. This leads to more uniform competitive conditions and makes them easier to calculate.
How does VERA affect the environment?
By facilitating the market for environmental technologies VERA contributes to making new technologies available for meeting the environmental challenges in agricultural production. In general VERA can therefore be expected to increase the possibilities of the agricultural sector to reduce environmental pollution.
Is VERA a part of the regulation in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany?
In the particiapating countries VERA is implemented in different ways and intensity:
In Denmark VERA is already fully implemented. Products must be listed in the "Danish technology list" which they can gain access to by performing a VERA test.
In the Netherlands such a test enables the technology to be added to the Dutch "Rav list".
In Germany the evaluation of measured emission reductions and related decisions are matter of the district administration authorities. A VERA test will help to get the local approval easier.
Is VERA connected to the EU Commission's Environmental Technology Verification Scheme (EU-ETV)?
By now, VERA is not connected to the EU-ETV pilot programme as agriculture is not in the EU-ETV's scope. Nevertheless, as the idea of VERA and EU-ETV are nearly identical, the initiators of VERA aim to merge it into the EU-ETV scheme if it will be continued after the pilot phase (scheduled for autumn 2017).
For futher information on EU-ETV please refer to: www.eu-etv-strategy.eu.
What is the price for having a technology tested and verified by VERA?
The price for a test and verification varies depending on the nature of the technology and the relevant test protocol. It is therefore difficult to make an exact estimate. The actual costs are subject to each individual case. Upon submission of the test plan an estimation can be given. Being at a starting phase, only the testing costs apply. In future there will also be a fee to cover the expenses for verification.
Who pays for a VERA test and verification?
Normally the company that wants to have a technology tested and verified will carry the costs.
Can other tests than the tests described in the VERA test protocols be used to achieve a VERA verification?
Generally, this is not possible. However, if existing data are based on tests which are very similar and the test methods applied are validated and proven to deliver significantly equal results they might be fully or partly accepted. Additional tests might be required in order to fulfil all the test requirements of the VERA test protocols and the General VERA Guidelines. This decision will be made by the verification body and the international VERA expert group for the individual application.
What is the difference between environmental technology verification and (product) certification?
Environmental technology verification is intended for innovative technologies ready for the market where no product standards exist yet. Whereas (product) certification is intended for products that have been available for so long that product performance standards are already in place. The VERA verification confirms the compliance of the tests performed with the VERA test protocols while a certification certifies (endorses, authorizes, validates) the product, mostly with minimum requirements for the results of the product performance.
Is a VERA verification the same as having a new technological invention patented?
No. A verification confirms that the test results have been achieved by following the scientific methods of the VERA test protocol and are comparable to other VERA tests.
Does VERA comply with rules and procedures of confidentiality?
Yes, VERA will comply with the general rules and procedures concerning confidentiality, unless other agreements have been made with the applicant. The test data will only be shared within the VERA expert group, in which each member has signed a confidentiality agreement. Just the final VERA Verification Statement will be made publicly available after an approval of the applicant. This will assure the protection of intellectual property rights.
Which countries can join the VERA cooperation?
Any European country can join the VERA cooperation. With the publication of the General VERA Guidelines VERA is open for additional countries that like to join the idea. Interested new member countries must accept and sign the General VERA Guidelines and follow the rights and obligations of VERA member states. Ask the International VERA Secretariat for further details.