Updated on February 6, 2024


Created on May 24, 2016

Chameleon Soil Moisture Sensor

Upcoming Update

Chameleon Soil Moisture Sensor is an instrument which measures water level and moisture content of soil to help farmers to know when to irrigate.

Tested By
  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Content Partners


Product Description

The Chameleon Soil Moisture Sensor is a prototype sensor designed to increase water management techniques for smallholder irrigators on their farms. Applications of the Chameleon sensor include providing information on when to irrigate to avoid water stress, how to avoid water-logging, determining when the soil profile is susceptible to fertilizer leaching, and improving the usefulness of rainfall. This sensor can also help farmers determine where the roots are actively taking up water giving farmers insight on when to irrigate and how much water to apply. The kit includes a field reader, sensor array, connector, and battery charging cable.

Target SDGs

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Market Suggested Retail Price


Target Users (Target Impact Group)

Household, Community

Distributors / Implementing Organizations

CSIRO oversees distribution of the product.

Manufacturing/Building Method

The sensor was developed in a project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. It is made of resistivity sensor and colour diodes, connected to a mobile phone app.

Intellectural Property Type

Trade Secret

User Provision Model

Users can purchase the sensor for through CSIRO's Virtual Irrigation Academy Shop

Distributions to Date Status

As of July 2016, there are approximately 2000 sensors in the ground being used by farmers in Africa Interview with representative

Accuracy range


Parameters tested

Soil moisture

Power source



Resistivity sensor

Design Specifications

The resistivity sensor is buried in the soil and a reader which transmits data to colour diodes is connected to the sensor. The sensor measures tension in the soil at three different depths and gives a colour-coded output i.e. blue means the soil is wet (0 to 20 kPa): do not irrigate, green means the soil is moist (20 to 50 kPa): get ready to irrigate and red means the soil is dry (greater than 50kPa): irrigate. The output can also be displayed on a card, which displays a one colour output.

Product Schematics

Chameleon sensor in a field

Technical Support

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) provides technical support for users.

Replacement Components

Replacement sensors and field readers are available through the Virtual Irrigation Academy Shop.


The longevity of gypsum based sensors is listed as a possible concern and further testing will reveal the lifespan of the sensors. Current sensors have been in the ground for over 3 years and are still performing properly Interview with representative

Manufacturer Specified Performance Parameters

The sensor is designed to help small-scale farmers to properly irrigate their farms

Vetted Performance Status

As part of the project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the sensor was tested and found to be effective in helping farmers improve their irrigation practices.


When facilitating repairs to the sensor, basic electrical precautions should be taken.

Complementary Technical Systems

A mobile app was designed by CSIRO to relay information from the sensor.

Academic Research and References

Moyo, M., Van Rooyen, A., Bjornlund, H., Parry, K., Stirzaker, R., Dube, T., and Maya, M., 2020, The dynamics between irrigation frequency and soil nutrient management: transitioning smallholder irrigation towards more profitable and sustainable systems in Zimbabwe. International Journal of Water Resources Development, pp 1-25.

Svedberg, E., 2019, Impact on yield and water productivity of wheat by access to irrigation scheduling technologies in Koga Irrigation Scheme, Ethiopia. Master of science thesis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.

Stirzaker, R., Mbakwe, I., and Mziray, N. R., 2017, A soil water and solute learning system for small-scale irrigators in Africa. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 33(5), pp 788-803.

Compliance with regulations


Other Information

Article on Installing Chameleon Sensors CSIRO The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research project CSIRO's Virtual Irrigation Academy Shop Development of the Chameleon soil moisture sensor - specifications Colour-coded output Sensor Testing Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Mobile app Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research The dynamics between irrigation frequency and soil nutrient management Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences - Impact on yield and water productivity

Comments from the Community

1 Comment

  1. Janet Chapman says:

    Where are you trialling these in Tanzania please? would it be possible to get involved in a pilot?

Leave a Reply

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