Smarter Irrigation for Profit

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Smarter Irrigation for Profit - phase one: 

Phase one of the Smarter Irrigation for Profit project was supported by funding from the Australian Government's then Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (now Department of Agriculture) as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, round one.

Led by CRDC in partnership with fellow RDCs Dairy Australia, Sugar Research Australia and AgriFutures Australia, the project aimed to improve the profit of cotton, dairy, rice and sugar irrigators. The project was a collaborative project, delivered with the support of 16 research and development partners and 19 farmer irrigation technology learning sites.

Grower-led irrigation research and extension aimed to collect commercially relevant comparative data on different irrigation systems and technologies. The intention was to provide growers improved understanding of the implications for capital investment, management and the resource requirements (water, energy and labour) associated with different irrigation systems and the adoption of automation technology and different approaches to farming systems.

The project consisted of three core components:

  1. Practical, reliable irrigation scheduling technologies
  2. Precise, low cost automated control systems for a range of irrigation systems
  3. A network of 19 farmer managed learning sites located around Australia.


The project found participating farmers from the dairy, cotton, sugar and rice industries could achieve a 10-20 percent improvement in water productivity through adoption of new and existing precision irrigation technologies. The project also identified significant energy savings which also enhanced profitability.

These summary reports outline the achievements of the Smarter Irrigation for Profit project. 

  1. Smarter Irrigation for Profit - Snapshot 
  2. Smarter Irrigation for Profit - Case Studies 
  3. Smarter Irrigation for Profit - Final Report


Research projects funded as part of the Smarter Irrigation for Profit project are listed below, along with their associated reports and fact sheets. The associated reports and fact sheets linked to each project:

  1. Irrigation scheduling technologies (plant, soil, weather) - Mike Morris, DEDTJR; 
  2. Irrigation cotton agronomy for tailored and responsive management with limited water - Dr Hizbullah Jamali and Dr Michael Bange, CSIRO; 
  3. Smart Automated Broad-acre Irrigation - Dr Joseph Foley, Dr Malcolm Gillies, Dr Alison McCarthy, University of Southern Queensland 
  4. Smart automated irrigation: Increasing farm profit through efficient use of irrigation for dairy farms - Dr James Hills, University of Tasmania  
  5. Maximising on-farm irrigation profitability, Peter Regan, NSW DPI
  6. Grower led irrigation system research in the Gwydir Valley 2009-2018 - Lou Gall, Gwydir Valley Irrigation Association
  7. Optimised Dairy Irrigation Farms - Monique White, Dairy Australia
  8. Smarter Irrigation: Educating growers in innovative on-farm water management and scheduling practices - Andres Jaramillo, Sugar Research Australia 

Research partners:

The project was a partnership between the major irrigation industries of cotton, dairy, rice and sugar, led by CRDC in conjunction with Dairy Australia, Sugar Research Australia and AgriFutures Australia. Addition research partners includied: CSIRO, NSW DPI, USQ, TIA, SARDI, DEDTJR Victoria and other industry organisations. The project was supported by funding from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Rural Research and Development for Profit program.


Smarter Irrigation for Profit - phase two: 

Phase two of the Smarter Irrigation for Profit project is also funded from the Department of Agriculture's Rural R&D for Profit program.

This project aims to address the challenge of reduced water availability by improving the water productivity of Australian cropping and pasture irrigators, through developing new precision irrigation technologies, improving existing technologies and facilitating faster uptake through producer led demonstration sites. Phase one of the project found participating Australian irrigators could achieve a 10-30 per cent improvement in water productivity by adopting precision irrigation technologies. 

As a result, Smarter Irrigation for Profit - phase two incorporates three key areas of work.

  1. Developing new and innovative irrigation technologies. Technologies include the application of new sensors, advanced analytics to improve irrigation scheduling and strategies to reduce water storage evaporation.
  2. Optimising the benefits of autonomous irrigation. Research activities include improving automation components and developing more robust networks for sensing, control and precision application to facilitate faster adoption. Research will be conducted on commercial farms to enable producer input and to make sure outputs are cost effective and practical.
  3. Closing the productivity yield gap via best practice irrigation extension. 35 producer and private sector led irrigation optimisation sites will be established across the cotton, dairy and sugar, rice and grains industries. These sites will support extension of the 'basics' as well as building knowledge and skills in managing current and new precision irrigation technologies. Cross sector learning will be supported through integrated extension activities and tours. 

The expected outcome is a 10-20 per cent increase in the water productivity of over 4,000 irrigated cropping and pasture agricultural enterprises.

Research partners:

This project is a partnership between the major irrigation industries of cotton, dairy, rice, sugar and grains, led by CRDC in conjunction with Dairy Australia, Sugar Research Australia, AgriFutures Australia and the Grains Research and Development Corporation. Additional research partners include: Deakin University, the University of Melbourne, University of Southern Queensland, University of Tasmania, CSIRO, University of Sydney, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, the Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association and NSW DPI.