Farm app to predict harvests

POTATO FARMERS will be able to predict future harvests using a new smartphone app.


Farmers have traditionally relied on cumbersome and inaccurate manual measurements to predict crop yields. But the new app will take photographs of the ground coverage of the potato leaf canopy and analyse them to predict crop development.


The technology, which will initially be trialled on 46 UK potato fields, is the latest breakthrough achieved through PepsiCo’s collaboration with Cambridge University. Last year, the company co-developed “i-crop” – a system that helps farmers measure and reduce their overall water usage by collecting and calculating information about crops, such as soil moisture levels.


The new app will improve the ease, speed and quality of the canopy data fed into i-crop, making it easier for farmers and PepsiCo’s buyers to track the development of its potato crops in the UK.


Initial trials of i-crop across 46 of PepsiCo’s UK potato farms have resulted in a 13% increase in crop yield and 8% reduction in water usage.


PepsiCo has also been one of the first companies to use “Cool Farm Tool” – a carbon calculator developed by the University of Aberdeen. The tool has enabled farmers to readily assess their carbon emissions, and to model different scenarios and strategies for reducing their footprints further.


PepsiCo said it is also currently trialling a number of other sustainability initiatives with its UK farmers, such as identifying and using low carbon fertilisers.


“British farming is the engine of our business, from the potatoes we use for Walkers crisps to the oats for Quaker porridge and the apples for Copella juices,” said David Wilkinson, senior director for european agriculture at PepsiCo Europe.  “This year they have faced some of most challenging conditions in recent memory and investing in new farming technology that will grow crops more resource efficiently is vital for the future of farming.”


The new technologies, he added, will not only help reduce PepsiCo’s environmental footprint, but help farmers save money too.


The initiative is seen as an “important step” in PepsiCo’s journey towards achieving ‘50 in 5’ – a pledge to reduce carbon emissions and water usage in water stressed areas by 50% in 5 years.