The world is a changing place; finite energy resources are dwindling and the world population is constantly increasing, and this is putting a lot of pressure on the food industry. As it becomes more and more unsustainable to fly exotic and unseasonable foods in for far off places, countries are going to have to become more reliant on what they can grow locally. This could spell trouble for some places, as the climate is too extreme to easily grow crops, for example in Africa where it’s far too dry.
An unusual alliance between food giant PepsiCo, caretaker of brands such as Pepsi, Scotts Porridge, Doritos, Quaker, Tropicana and more, and Cambridge University is aiming to change this with the i-crop. Pepsi is obviously a large investor in the area of sustainable farming, as the global brands they maintain focus on production of lots of different fruit and veg, but this is the first time they have allied with a university.
The partnership has produced a new watering system called the i-crop, which utilises lots of different technologies to make the process of irrigating more efficient. The point of the systems is to give growers a better understanding of places they can save energy and cut down on water, by monitoring the field. Probes are used all over the field to collect data on moisture and mineral levels, as well as connecting to the local weather service, then all data is available through a web based interface. This precise data on moisture levels can then be used, along with weather predictions, to make decisions on when the best time is to irrigate crops. his in turn makes the whole system more efficient, as you’re only watering when you know it needs it.
The development of this products has taken over 5 years, and is currently being trialed by over 20 farms across the UK. It is expected to save almost 50% over standard irrigation systems, and are helping Pepsi in their aims to reduce overall emissions by 50% in 5 years. This is an excellent move by the food giant and one of the UK’s premier universities, and seems to be proving an excellent boost to farming. Although it may well have been developed with selfish intension by Pepsi, the truth is it could be put to good use in harsh environments. In places where water is scarce, it could be just what is needed to help make most efficient use of it, and ultimately help us to carry on our lives in the manner we’re accustomed to.