i-crop: Pepsi's Revolutionary Precision Farming System
Maria Popova is a reader and a writer, and writes about what she reads on Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), which is included in the Library of Congress archive of culturally valuable materials. She has also written for The New York Times, Wired UK, and The Atlantic, among others, and is an MIT Fellow. She is on Twitter @brainpicker.
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.