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AgResearch NZ: Surface Water Assessment and Mitigation for Irrigation (SWAMI) - Licensing

Opportunity for

  • Centre pivot and lateral overheads irrigation manufacturers, irrigation control system integration

Opportunity description

Industry challenge:

Irrigation systems like centre pivots, designed to deliver water to specific areas based on soil properties, face challenges due to changing surface conditions. Despite their design, excess irrigation can lead to ponding and runoff, causing soil erosion and nutrient loss, impacting farmers' water usage, energy costs, and productivity. Studies in the US and Brazil have highlighted erosion issues, such as in Brazil's Central Highlands, where 29% of fields showed signs of erosion (Batista et al, 2023).

The centre pivot irrigation market, valued at US$3.2 billion in 2022, is expected to grow to US$9 billion by 2030, driven by a compound annual growth rate of 13.8%. (Research and Market, 2024). This growth presents opportunities for technology solutions to enhance irrigation efficiency. SWAMI, developed by New Zealand's AgResearch, offers predictive capabilities to identify surface water build-up, providing a commercial opportunity through IP licensing for irrigation companies and technology providers. With the growing market, cost pressures on farmers, and environmental concerns, there's a ripe opportunity for innovation in irrigation technology.

Current opportunity:

SWAMI is an innovative solution that uses acoustic technology to predict and detect surface water build up. This enables real-time surface water detection which can significantly improve:

  • Irrigation management
  • Water efficiency
  • Environmental outcomes.

SWAMI is designed to be mounted on centre-pivot or lateral irrigation systems and does not touch the soil or crop. There is no interference with farming operations.

SWAMI is available as an intellectual property licensing opportunity. SWAMI has patent applications in a number of countries. The technology has been validated through a series of trials, including detection accuracy as well as determining water and energy usage savings. The SWAMI technology won the New Zealand Research Stream of the Bridge Hub 2020 Water Challenge.

Industry partners will enable this technology to move into the market with direct benefits to farmers.

To find out more about this opportunity or to connect, go to "Enquire now".

Opportunity background:

AgResearch scientists have carried out work on the impacts of irrigation on surface water-run-off. The SWAMI technology was developed as a mitigation tool to equip irrigation systems to detect excess surface water build-up.

Acoustic technology, combined with an algorithm, enables surface water build-up to be detected and even predicted in real-time. The design of the SWAMI technology enables both integration into irrigation management systems and scalability. The technology is compact and low-cost which provides benefits for both industry partners and farmers.

Technologies to date include soil moisture sensors for sub-surface assessment and satellite imaging. These technologies do not provide continuous real-time measurement of surface water build-up.

SWAMI has the following competitive advantages:


  • Real-time measurement and prediction
  • Surface water build up reliably measured


  • Mounted on the irrigator and does not contact the crop or soil


  • Low-cost acoustic hardware


  • Compact acoustic and receiver equipment
  • Bolt-on simplicity enables scalability

The benefits for farmers include:

Reduction in surface water build up resulting in

  • Reductions in water run-off
  • Lower nutrient losses
  • Positive environmental impacts

Water and electricity cost savings

  • Trials have found a 38 per cent water saving per irrigation event.

    Potential other applications:

A potential further application of the technology is to measure ponding from effluent sprinklers, reducing negative environmental impacts from surface water run-off.

Opportunity type



Mid (TRL 5-7)
Proof of concept in the laboratory then in the field resulting in the development of a minimum viable product (MVP).
What does this mean?
Describes the stage of the challenge or opportunity being pursued.

Opportunity led by

Multiple industries
Alternative protein Beef cattle Cross industry Dairy Game Natural capital assets Other rural industries Packaged food Pasture, fodder & feed Sheep & lamb Vegetables Wine Wool


We support the primary sector and the Government’s science and innovation priority areas.
  • Location

    New Zealand

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Opportunity for

  • Industry partners and investors, venture capital firms, for a co-investment opportunity with AgResearch.

^This opportunity is only for professional and sophisticated investors.



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  • Opportunity type

    Seeking interest, Seeking investment, Seeking partners

  • Readiness
    Early to Mid (TRL 1-7)
    For opportunities that are seeking solutions providers who are in the early to mid stages of readiness.

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