A simple, visual sensor and digital platform that improves water and nutrient use by farmers.
The irrigation sector produces 40 per cent of the world's food, but is under-performing and environmentally unsustainable, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
The Virtual Irrigation Academy (VIA) comprises a set of simple tools that measure soil water, nitrate and salt and display the results as colours, which are thresholds for different actions. The sensors have been specifically designed around the needs of smallholder farmers.
We are interested in working with impact investors and strategic partners who want to be part of a new venture. We particularly want to work with partners who share our passion of empowering farmers in the smallholder irrigation sector.
The VIA is comprised of a set of sensors and a digital platform developed to improve smallholder irrigator productivity, reduce water use and nutrient loss, and support water governance.
Research trials in Africa have demonstrated yield increases from 20 to 100 per cent across a range of irrigated crops. Yield increases are usually accompanied by reductions in water use of up to 60 per cent.
Uptake of VIA products by irrigation managers and producers will lead to wide scale improvements in on-farm productivity, economic returns, water optimisation/efficiencies and sustainable outcomes, as well as reduced poverty and malnutrition and greater social equity in multiple geographies.
Multiple markets available:
- smallholder farmers in low and middle income countries – used to sustainably manage water and nutrient use and improve production
- water regulators, governments – monitor water use and crop production. Data suite is a decision-making tool for management of water resources
- NGOs, charities, donors – tools can improve project outcomes for water conservation and food/crop production. Data can be used to monitor project impacts and outcomes
- urban producers and horticulture markets – used to sustainably manage water and nutrient use and improve production.
- Trademarked name and logo
- Specialist knowledge of production methods within the team
The team has combined scientific expertise and precision engineering to create accurate products at approximately half the cost of competitor products. The team have achieved the following successes:
- 33,000 sensors and 1,200 readers manufactured, deployed and in use around the world
- more than 2,000 users of the VIA platform
- annual production of ~ 7,500 sensors from the Pretoria production and the Canberra research lines
- engagement and significant interest in the VIA from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Bank, European Union, International Fund for Agricultural Development, African Development Bank, World Vision
- current interest from Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Fiji governments and programs to implement the VIA.