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These days, Old MacDonald has a farm and a smartphone

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PepsiCo is experimenting with a highly mobile integrated crop management system, underscoring the rapid adoption of smartphones and wireless technology by agricultural businesses.

By using its proprietary iCrop management technology in the United Kingdom to help more closely manage crop cultivation and harvesting needs, PepsiCo has improved potato crop yields while decreasing the amount of water needed for irrigation.

That's just one of the high-level takeaways shared by Ian Hope-Johnstone, director of agricultural sustainability for PepsiCo global operations, with whom I recently chatted about mobile technology and its agricultural uses.

The iCrop experiment -- highly dependent on various mobile technologies including notebooks, handhelds and wireless sensors -- is being spearheaded by PepsiCo and Cambridge University on a pilot basis, as part of the food company's overriding agenda to develop an integrated crop management system that will help the company reduce the carbon emissions and water consumption associated with its agricultural operations by 50 percent over the next five years.

The project started in the United Kingdom but has since been rolled out to other markets in Western Europe including Holland and Spain, Hope-Johnstone said. Much more data will be forthcoming over the next several years as the company start gathering data through automated systems on a more real-time basis.

Although iCrop is still in its infancy, the system is just one example of how the agricultural industry is using mobile technology to drive improve yields and better manage irrigation needs.

An infographic (below) created by Float Mobile Learning suggests that a growing number of North American farmers are now using smartphones or mobile devices to help manage their operations -- while farmers in developing nations have relied on these technologies for a longer period of time, in the absence of other management tools or wired-line access to the Internet.

So-called "precision agriculture" of the type being embraced by PepsiCo could help reduce water usage by up to 50 percent, according to the statistics gathered for the infographic.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure