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Athena IR-Tech: Irrigation optimisation solution - seed investment opportunity

From left: Director of Ag research Dr Fran Doerfinger, CEO Jay Holata & CSO Dr Vinay Pagay

Opportunity for:

  • Investors and commercial partners to bring customer relationships, co-development, investment to assist commercialisation to scale up globally in major wine and horticulture regions of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Europe, South America and South Africa.

^This opportunity is only for professional and sophisticated investors.

Opportunity description

Industry challenge:

The 2021 drought directly cost the California agriculture sector about US$1.1 billion and nearly 8,750 full- and part-time jobs. In Australia, cropping farms profit decreased from around A$230,000 in a ‘typical year’ down to a loss of $125,000 in a ‘dry year’ such as 2018-2019 (1 in 10 poor climate year). Irrigation management using advanced technologies is becoming a minimum requirement for farmers just to survive. The OECD estimates the economic value of proper irrigation timing in dryland horticulture and viticulture exceeds ~$5 billion globally. This is a multi-billion-dollar problem for which Athena IR-Tech has an answer.

The Transp-IR solution by Athena IR-Tech provides farmers with a plant-based irrigation sensing technology that simply informs the farmer when the plant water status drops below the optimal level. Hence, if the plant is not transpiring at an optimal level, then the farmer is notified that the crop needs to be irrigated. This method of watching the daily output of how well the plant is transpiring has a direct correlation to how well it is using the water available to it and therefore allows us to maximise the water use efficiency of the crop without compromising crop yield or quality. This is quite simply, a world first.

Most farmers are irrigating based on imprecise and often misleading information – their past experience. This practice wastes 40% of irrigated water used in agricultural production annually. Instead of only relying on past experience, Athenas’ Transp-IR irrigates based on what the plant is saying in its current environment. Past experience alone might result in water savings, but it does not always translate to water use efficiency. Water use efficiency is not just referring to the maximising yield or fruit quality per unit of water used. We look at water savings in the context of how much is produced and the percentage of water supplied to the plant that is effectively taken up by the plant (i.e., that was not lost to drainage, bare soil evaporation or interception).

The Athena IR-Tech Transp-IR solution maximises water use efficiency through proximal, infrared transpiration monitoring and notifies the grower when the crop’s transpiration rate has dropped below the optimal level for the current growth stage, therefore, giving the plant only the water it needs to develop its crop efficiently. Unlike other irrigation monitoring technologies, which typically record many data points, our solution lets farmers know exactly when their crop requires irrigation by notifying them that their crop is transpiring below the defined optimal irrigation range, as defined by our plant water index, and the related optimal irrigation zone.

Current opportunity:

Athena IR-Tech is seeking funding from investors and/or commercial partners to scale the Transp-IR solution, conduct R&D to add new crops, establish a marketing presence and customer engagement for expansion throughout Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Europe, South America and South Africa wine and horticulture regions.

Most of the hardware product development is complete for current wine grape, orchard and small-scale fruit and vegetable crops. Predictive plant water index, partner integration, and user experience software improvements, are required. The sought investment will initially guide the manufacture of the next version of the hardware and software, which is forecast to be complete by September 2023, as well as establishing the market and customer engagement capabilities to support the solution sales, implementation and follow-on support.

Sales and sponsorship of providing the solution to growers on a trial basis has enabled the manufacture and implementation of a solution that is now ready to scale past MVP stage. Initial sponsorship of the Transp-IR solution where 17 growers were provided 31 units during the 2021-2022 growing season, converted into a 94% return rate with 15 of 17 customers returning as paying customers and expanding their footprint of units in the field from 31 to 39.

Opportunity background:

The Transp-IR solution is based on the concept of monitoring how well the plant is transpiring as a direct indication of whether it has enough water available to it to effectively photosynthesise and develop the crop. This information is then mapped to an optimal irrigation range that is specific to the physiology of each crop as determined through ground-truthing research of each crop prior to adding the crop to the Transp-IR solution. This range provides a direct indication to the farmer of whether the plant has only the water required to effectively photosynthesise and maximise water use efficiency. In side-by-side trials, we demonstrated water savings of up to 75% in Shiraz grapes and 35% in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes without compromising yield or quality.

Transp-IR has a proprietary algorithm, developed based on research at the The University of Adelaide (UA), School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, that uses the data recorded by the field device to determine how well the plant is transpiring and maps the developed plant water index to the optimal irrigation zone for the specific crop being monitored.

The novel approach taken within the algorithm builds on well-established research that clearly demonstrates a link between water availability, how well the plant regulates its stomata and how well the plant is photosynthesising. The Transp-IR algorithm builds on this well-documented research to then define a relationship between the level of water available to the plant and the plant’s ability to regulate its stomata, called the plant water index, and then overlays this index on an optimal irrigation range that is specific to each crop or cultivar, based on that exact crop physiology. The plant water index and the optimal irrigation range can only be obtained after monitoring the plant throughout an entire growing season to gain an understanding of exactly how that crop regulates its stomata.

Potential other applications:

As the Athena IR-Tech Transp-IR solution is applicable to any irrigated crops, broadacre crops such as corn lucerne/alfalfa and soybeans are applications Athena IR-Tech would like to pursue with the appropriate organisation / association. In addition, the consumer, clubs and councils market is also considered as another application as the solution could be useful for the efficient of lawn / turf and garden plants such as vegetables and flowers like tomatoes and rose bushes.

To find out more or get in touch, submit an enquiry via the "Enquire now" button above.

^Professional and sophisticated investors as defined in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). The content of this opportunity is intended for use by persons having professional experience in matters relating to investments and must not be acted or relied upon by any other person including, without limitation, retail clients.

Opportunity type

Seeking investment, Seeking partners


Late (TRL 8-9)
Commercial optimisation of the product/service, testing and commercial distribution.
What does this mean?
Describes the stage of the challenge or opportunity being pursued.

Opportunity led by

Multiple industries
Fruits Nuts Wine

Athena IR-Tech

Athena IR-Tech, a company based in Adelaide, Australia, is commercialising research from the University of Adelaide that provides a solution notifying farmers when their crops need irrigation based on whether the plant is transpiring at an optimal level.

Multiple industries
Fruits Nuts Wine
  • Location

    Australia and US

  • Organisation type

    Startup or Scaleup or SME

Logo for Athena IR-Tech



Technology areas

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