PepsiCo sustainability work yields crop management technology

One could envision future scenarios where other food companies might consider licensing or using the i-crop application and databases.

Could PepsiCo find a new revenue source in farm management technology?

As my colleague Andrew Nusca reported last week, the giant food and beverage company is rolling out technology called i-crop that it has developed in conjunction with Cambridge University. The solution -- which combines sensors and business intelligence software -- is central to the company's overriding mission to reduce its water usage by 50 percent over the next five years.

Like many of the farm management technologies that I have been hearing about since I jumped into covering corporate sustainability, i-crop works by feeding information from soil moisture sensors into a web-based application that can be used by farmers to monitor, manage and reduce their water use and carbon emissions. Basically, this is business intelligence for agribusinesses.

i-crop isn't the only solution that PepsiCo is working on. The company has also created something called the Cool Farm Tool, which was developed by the University of Aberdeen. Hmmm.

PepsiCo's aggressive push into sustainable farming techniques is obviously self-interested from an operational standpoint. Aside from its water reduction goal, the company also is pushing the use of low-carbon fertilizers and is encouraging the use of renewable energy sources at its farms. As resource availability changes, PepsiCo needs to ensure access to the raw materials necessary for producing its products.

If PepsiCo's technology is successful in helping achieve its goals, one could foresee a situation where i-crop and Cool Farm could be used by other agricultural businesses that need to ensure the ability of their farming partners to run more sustainable businesses. In effect, creating a new revenue source for PepsiCo, if you think about it. After all, the application behind the solution is web-based, so it would be an easy matter to let other companies -- especially smaller food production operations that don't have the wherewithal to develop the same sort of thing themselves -- license the software as a service.

I want to be clear that PepsiCo hasn't stated that it will do this. But, after all, why not?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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