High honour for pioneering scientist

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Oct, 2017

A Lincoln Agritech Ltd scientist known for his pioneering work in electronic engineering was honoured by the Royal Society Te Apārangi last week.

Professor Ian Woodhead, Chief Scientist and Group Manager of Lincoln Agritech’s Technology Group, received the Scott Medal, an engineering science and technology award, in recognition of the wide range of sensors he has developed for the agricultural and environmental sectors.

Presented annually the Research Honours celebrate the outstanding achievements and excellence of New Zealand researchers.

During his illustrious, almost 40 year career, Professor Woodhead created a number of globally-marketed sensors, including devices to evaluate the performance of electric fences and an electronic soil moisture sensor called Aquaflex, sold by Streat Instruments, which paved the way for more efficient irrigation systems, allowing farmers to use water more sustainably.

He also invented a new technique to measure water distribution within materials, such as moisture profile in soil and water distribution in timber.

His Lincoln Agritech research team has recently created a low cost optical ground water nitrate sensor, the “HydroMetrics – Nitrate GW50” to measure nitrate concentrations in groundwater.

The medal selection committee deemed this a good example of Professor Woodhead applying “his wide grasp of physics, mathematics, engineering and electronics to solve technological problems for New Zealand’s agricultural sector”.

Lincoln Agritech says the new technology will help New Zealand’s agricultural industries manage the tradeoff between increasing productivity and sustainability.

Professor Woodhead holds a PhD in applied physics and has been an advisor for MBIE Science and assessor for the French National Research Agency. He leads the Agricultural and Environment Technologies portfolio of the National Science Challenge: Science for Technological Innovation.

In 2014, he was made a Lincoln University Adjunct Professor due to his contribution to agritechnology and instrumentation.

On accepting the medal, he said he was honoured to receive the recognition from the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

“I also wish to share the recognition with colleagues at Lincoln Agritech Ltd who have contributed to the research in microwaves and dielectric properties of materials, and development of derived products to benefit New Zealand industry and agriculture.”

Lincoln Agritech CEO, Peter Barrowclough, said he was pleased to see Professor Woodhead, recognised by his peers across the scientific community for his career and outstanding advancement to the engineering sciences.

“The best small science company in NZ, Lincoln Agritech, is producing world class science and world class researchers who are being recognised on the national stage,” he added.

Garth Carnaby, a previous president of the Royal Society, said Professor Woodhead had carried out his research in an applied research environment which has required enormous versatility and creativity, sustained over many years.

“His research has been characterized by his ability to cut through complex problems to identify the underlying science.”

High honour for pioneering scientist