Solar-Powered Sensors Help Walkers Crisps Slice Farm Water and Carbon Use in Half

World | Solar Energy

icrop1-580x358Walkers Crisps has halved the water and carbon footprint of the potatoes that go in to making the popular crisps, with the help of solar powered smart sensors and digital carbon calculators.

The popular brand announced today that water use and carbon emissions on the farms that supply it with potatoes have been slashed since 2010 as part of parent company PepsiCo UK & Ireland’s ’50 in 5′ environmental programme, which set a goal of reducing carbon emissions and water usage by 50 per cent across the farming of its core crops within five years.

“We buy 340,000 tonnes of potatoes a year in the UK, so have a real stake in trying to make the process of growing potatoes as sustainable as possible,” said David Wilkinson, European Senior Director of Agriculture of PepsiCo.

“We’re very proud to have met our ’50 in 5′ target working in partnership with British farmers. This programme really demonstrates how businesses can work across the supply chain to minimise impact on the environment.”

PepsiCo said the targets had been met thanks to a number of collaborations with Universities that led to the roll out of some innovative new technologies designed minimise environmental impacts.

For example, the company worked with Cambridge University to deploy iCrop sensors on the farms in its supply chains, using solar-powered probes and weather stations to provide accurate data on moisture levels in their fields.

“It provides the information [farmers] need to judge exactly how much water to use on crops, reducing wastage, saving money, and producing more ‘crop per drop’,” PepsiCo said. “It also helps farmers adapt to precipitation and temperature changes by delivering just the right amounts of water and fertilizers at the right times.”

Similarly, the company revealed how a partnership with University of Aberdeen had resulted in the roll out of the Cool Farm Tool, a digital carbon calculator providing farmers with information on their carbon emissions per tonne of potato and the ability to model how different scenarios can reduce their carbon impact.

Gavin Janaway, a supplier to Walkers from Hampshire’s Whitewater Farm, said the programme had helped farmers to utilise new technologies to better mitigate the risks associated with climate change.

“As farmers across the UK are challenged by more frequent extremities of weather and increasingly scarce resources, it is now more important than ever for farms to be more sustainable,” he said in a statement. “It is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the supply chain to care for the environment and working in partnership is the way forward for sustainable farming. This initiative has been crucial in helping us achieve that, reducing our water and carbon, and improving our yields.”

Having met the ’50 in 5′ targets, Wilkinson said attention was now turning to further reducing Walker’s environmental footprint. “The work doesn’t stop here – we’re continuing to explore with our growers new ways to reduce carbon and water usage and use resources more efficiently,” he said.

The news comes just weeks after PepsiCo announced a revamp to its global environmental strategy, including a host of new targets to further reduce its water use by 2025 and cut absolute greenhouse gas emissions across its value chain by at least 20 per cent by 2030.

The move also comes a year after the company said that since 2010 its environmental initiatives had delivered financial savings totalling more than $375m, primarily through reduced energy, water, and packaging use.