A new smartphone app allowing farmers to more accurately predict future harvests is being trialled across 46 potato farms.

It is the latest development from PepsiCo’s collaboration with Cambridge University and works by photographing and analysing ground coverage of potato leaf canopies to predict crop development.

The two teamed up last year to develop i-crop, a system that helps farmers to 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 PepsiCo and farmers to track the development of its potato crops in the UK, says the University’s David Firman, who led the development.

Initial trials of i-crop have already seen an increase in crop yields of 13% as well as an 8% reduction in water usage.

“Before, farmers had to rely on manual measurements which were cumbersome and subject to error to predict their crop yields,” says Dr Firman. “This app enables farmers to more accurately forecast crop yield using digital images and modelling techniques. We are enthusiastic about this technology, which has a real potential to improve the management of potato crops.”

Potato grower Robert Griffiths, who is taking part in the trials, has seen the potential benefits of the new tool. He says: “This is helping me to transform the way I farm. Previously, my harvest estimates were based on manual measurements and a fair amount of guesswork, but now we can get an accurate calculation simply by taking a phone into the field.”

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