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Credit: Dmitry Dreyer

Australian company Magic Wavelength is making a significant difference in sustainable agriculture and home gardening through their AgTell and PlantTell plant health sensors.

According to the United Nations, in 2020, over 30% of the world’s population – a staggering 2.4 billion people – were moderately or severely food-insecure, lacking regular access to adequate food.

While we may think that food security plagues only developing nations, inequality of food access is a problem even in developed nations like Australia. 

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) reports that 4-13% of Australians lack food in the quantity and quality needed for a healthy life. The situation is more dire for the indigenous population in which 22-32% experience food insecurity.

The COVID-19 crisis, global supply chain disruptions, and climate change have pushed food insecurity rates even higher. Our growing food crisis demands innovative technologies that support sustainable agriculture and empower small farmers globally and home gardeners locally.

Magic Wavelength is an early-stage agriculture technology (AgTech) company focused on the development of novel sensors and instruments for non-invasive ground-based or airborne (drone) vegetation monitoring. Its core mission is to create innovative, low-cost products that provide growers with vital information that can be used to determine plant health.

Two main indices track plant health by measuring light reflectivity from vegetation. When sunlight strikes a plant leaf, some wavelengths are absorbed while others are reflected. Healthy plants absorb most of the visible light spectrum. The Normalised-Difference-Vegetation-Index (NDVI) determines general plant health based on relative reflection of visible and near-infrared (NIR) light. Healthy plants reflect much of the NIR spectrum. Unhealthy plants reflect more visible light and less NIR. NDVI index values can tell farmers when crops need fertilisation, enabling them to optimise the use of precious resources and minimise overfertilisation.

A second index, the Normalised-Difference-Water-Index (NDWI), measures plant water stress. The NDWI is similar in methodology but is based on NIR and short-wave infrared (SWIR) wavelengths that indicate changes in leaf water content. The NDWI can determine when crop irrigation is needed.

The ability to determine crop health is critical for the world’s 570 million farms and over a billion homes having some form of gardening activity. The underlying science for remote spectral sensing is well established, and remote sensing technology has been pivotal in improving yields for larger-scale agricultural farms and businesses.

But access to remote sensing data comes at a price, one that is out of reach of smaller farmers and growers, especially in remote or less affluent regions.

By partnering with ANFF-WA, Magic Wavelength gained access to the fabrication and characterization tools needed to successfully create, test and troubleshoot an innovative, compact, low-cost product that combines the latest advances in sensor technology, complementary optics, and smart processors. The company’s disruptive technology will place affordable sensing capability into the hands of growers that will benefit most.

For the agricultural sector, AgTell is a revolutionary drone-based solution which provides farmers access to remote spectral sensing of their farmlands. AgTell can measure both NDWI and NDVI and translates that data into a diagnosis on the health of the crop. AgTell drones will allow farmers to directly scan and diagnose their fields, taking the guesswork out of fertilisation and irrigation.


For home gardening, Magic Wavelength’s consumer product, PlantTell, is the world’s first handheld portable plant sensor that directly provides intelligence about plant health. When placed on an indoor or outdoor plant leaf, PlantTell will measure the reflection of the specific wavelengths needed for the NDWI and NDVI and immediately indicate to the gardener if the plant needs feeding or watering. This information can then be recorded and shared with others through Magic Wavelength’s PlantTell App, creating an active and engaged social community of gardening enthusiasts.

Magic Wavelength’s compact, low-cost instruments will provide farmers and gardeners the best possible outcomes for plant health and productivity with the optimum use of precious resources such as fertilisers and water.

To secure our local and global food supply, sustainable agriculture is the solution. There are many elements of traditional farmer and gardener knowledge that, enriched by the latest scientific knowledge and technology, will support productive food systems through sound and sustainable land, soil, water, and nutrient management.