Sustainable farming is a topic of pressing interest and a domain of growing innovation in agriculture, but it's an incredibly complex issue involving multiple interrelated factors. A new partnership between Pepsi UK and Cambridge University addresses one of the most critical components in sustainable agriculture: Efficient water use in crop management.
i-crop is a revolutionary web-based platform for "precision farming," allowing growers to produce more while using less water by reducing under- and over-watering. The data-driven system intersects local weather information with data from soil moisture probes. By making data available for farmers to access online, i-crop empowers them to make better decisions about how and when to water their crops. After initial testing, the software has been shown to help farmers achieve 90% efficiency in water usage.
i-crop is part of PepsiCo's five-year plan to reduce water usage by 50%. The technology, however, is currently only available to PepsiCo-affiliated growers, which raises interesting questions about the relationship between corporate interests and social good in innovation, as well as bespeaking the disconnect between the value of open-source software and the fact that the best-funded research initiatives, most competent scientists and highest-grade technology tend to be subsidized by private corporations.
Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, Design Observer and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.