Introducing the VIA

The Virtual Irrigation Academy (VIA) is a global community learning how manage water to grow more food. Launched in 2016 as a research project by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the VIA has created a suite of simple tools for monitoring water, nutrients and salt. These tools give output as colours, which are linked to action. The VIA works primarily with smallholder irrigation farmers, who are among the world’s most vulnerable food producers.

Introducing the VIA Tools

Why Smallholder Irrigation Farmers?

Most of the world’s food calories are produced on small farms of 5 ha or less. About 20% of the all cultivated land can be irrigated, and this produces 40% of the world’s food. Despite the importance of smallholder farmers, there is very little water management technology developed specifically for these farmers.

How can you engage?

Using water to grow food is something that connects us all. Whether a thousand-hectare enterprise or a backyard garden, we all need to learn how water and solutes are stored and move through soil. The VIA has a unique way of visualizing what is happening in the rootzone, using colours and patterns to tell the story.

Our monitoring tools can be used by anyone and you can join our community by visiting our online shops in Canberra (Australia) or Pretoria (South Africa).

Buying the tools

Please visit our online shops to purchase the Chameleon Card starter kit:

Chameleon Card

What is the Chameleon Card starter kit?

The Chameleon Card measures soil sensors using coloured lights to tell you when to irrigate.

The Chameleon Card starter kit lets know how hard the plants must work to extract water from the soil. The kit consists of a reader, that looks like a credit card, plus three sensors. The reader has a light which changes colour in response to the soil water status.

  • Blue means the soil is wet (do not irrigate)
  • Green means the soil is moist (get ready to irrigate)
  • Red means the soil is dry (plant experiencing water stress)

The sensors can be buried in three different fields, or at different depths in one location. Simply touch the wires against the contact pads on the reader and the light will change colour to show the soil water status. It could not be simpler.

How does it work?

The sensors measure soil water suction, or how hard it is for a plant to extract water from the soil (like a tensiometer). They do not need to be calibrated for soil type. Whether the soil is sandy or clayey, blue means the soil is adequately wet and red indicates the need for water.

The Chameleon Card contains a micro-processor and LED and is powered by a watch battery which will last for at least 1000 readings. The battery can be replaced. Rigorous testing of each batch of sensors in a modern laboratory ensures accuracy.