Lincoln University researchers are investigating the use of microwave technology to improve efficiency and reduce water wastage from farm irrigation.
The university's research subsidiary, Lincoln Ventures, has won government funding of almost $850,000 over two years to put its smarter irrigation concept to the test.
Chief scientist Dr Ian Woodhead says the idea is to attach sensors to centre pivot or travelling irrigators to measure moisture conditions in the pasture and adjust the water flow to suit.
As well as reducing the water required to irrigate pasture or crops, the smart irrigation technology would reduce nutrient leaching due to over-irrigation, lowering the risk of groundwater contamination and cutting fertiliser costs.
Lincoln Ventures is also collaborating with other research organisations to develop an automated system so farmers can measure the level of nitrogen fertiliser required in pastures and apply the right amount.
That will also have environmental as well as cost benefits. The project is receiving $5.5 million in government funding.