Chameleon Sensor and the Virtual Irrigation Academy

For the vast majority of those who use water to grow food, there is no simple way to know how well irrigation is managed.

Our ‘Chameleon system’ is a way of measuring soil water by producing colour patterns. These patterns tell you whether the soil is too wet or dry, how deep rain and irrigation moves into the soil and where roots are taking up water.

We also believe that water, nutrients, and salt have to be measured together in order to really understand what is happening when we add water to the land in order to grow food.

Data from the sensors is shared through the cloud-based platform, the Virtual Irrigation AcademyThis allows collaborative learning among farmers and by creating transparency of information from farmer through to regional extension officers to senior levels of government, revealing where systemic governance problems are occurring. 

The Chameleon system and tools has been adopted by hundreds of smallholder growers servicing over 1,000 crops across 13 countries in four continents with the number of users is expected to increase. Using the Chameleon system can lead to a 30% increase in yield through improved water use efficiency and a 30% reduction in water use. Improved labour productivity has resulted, with labour previously used for watering duties diverted towards other beneficial tasks such as weeding, and farmers reinvesting profits into on-farm improvements such as wells. 

Our work is primarily funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

See the the Virtual Irrigation Academy website for more information.

Contact Richard Stirzaker for more information.