IRO scientists recognised at RSNZ awards

October 2017

Professor Ian Woodhead, Lincoln Agritech, has been awarded the Scott Medal for advancing electronic engineering, particularly in developing sensors for the agricultural and environmental sectors, including an electric fence performance sensor, and an electronic soil moisture sensor that allows for more efficient irrigation systems. Photo: Lincoln Agritech.

Two scientists from Independent Research Organisations (IROs), Professor Charles Eason from the Cawthron Institute and  Professor Ian Woodhead from Lincoln Agritech, were medal recipients at this year’s New Zealand Research Honours, hosted by the Royal Society Te Apārangi and held at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland in October.

Professor Charles Eason, Cawthron Institute

Prof. Charles Eason, not only a practicing and publishing scientist, but also Chief Executive of the Cawthron Institute, received the Thomson Medal for his inspirational leadership in his research career, particularly in the areas of drug development and pest control. In addition, under Prof. Eason’s direction, Cawthron has expanded its expertise in aquaculture breeding, seafood safety, nutraceuticals and coastal and freshwater ecology.

Prof. Eason’s science speciality is toxicology, focusing on drugs and natural compounds. He has worked in controversial areas such as chemicals for predator and possum control and fluoridation of water.

Early in his research career he worked on the development and commercialisation of three cardiovascular drugs in Europe.

He moved to Landcare Research in 1990 and began developing more than 15 new devices and toxins for targeting mammalian predators. He continues to be involved with the developing and commercialising pest control tools and systems with low risk to the environment, low toxicity to birds and low secondary poisoning risk.

He is currently involved in the development of new drugs derived from marine algae with European pharmaceutical companies.

Professor Eason has been in leadership roles at the Cawthron Institute since 2003, firstly as a board director and then as Chief Executive and Research Director from 2012, leading more than 200 scientists.

Prof. Eason said he appreciated the award and was grateful to the Cawthron Board for deciding to have a practising and publishing scientist as Chief Executive when they appointed him. He is also grateful for the science leadership mentoring he has received.

“I am inspired by down-to-earth researchers that get stuff done. I am proud of the researchers at the Cawthron who have a real vivacity, who can link fundamental research through to real-world outcomes.”

Professor Ian Woodhead, Lincoln Agritech

Prof. Ian Woodhead, Lincoln Agritech, was awarded the Scott Medal for advancing electronic engineering, particularly in developing sensors for the agricultural and environmental sectors, including an electric fence performance sensor, and an electronic soil moisture sensor that allows for more efficient irrigation systems. 

Prof. Woodhead has developed a number of sensors that are sold globally. This includes the electric fence performance sensor, manufactured and marketed internationally by Gallagher Electronics and an electronic soil moisture sensor called Aquaflex, sold by Streat Instruments, which has allowed more efficient irrigation systems so that farmers can use water more sustainably.

Prof. Woodhead has also invented a novel technique for ‘aquametry’, which is the measurement of water in materials. His technique, known as ‘time domain reflectometry imaging’ (TDRI), uses microwaves to non-invasively measure the distribution of moisture near the surface of materials. It has helped us discover that water is not distributed evenly in many materials, advancing knowledge in this field of research.

Professor Woodhead has also worked on developing sensors for fruit firmness and the fat depth of livestock.

His research team at Lincoln Agritech Ltd has recently developed a UV sensor to measure nitrate concentrations in drainage water from farms and in groundwater, allowing for better management of New Zealand’s agricultural industries.

On receiving the medal, Professor Woodhead said he wished 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.

Professor Woodhead is Chief Scientist and Group Manager of Lincoln Technology at Lincoln Agritech Ltd. He is a contributor to the National Science Challenge: Science for Technological Innovation, leading the Agricultural and Environment Technologies portfolio.

Further information on the RSNZ awards

Please see:

https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/medals-and-awards/medals-and-awards-news/thomson-medal-leadership-in-pest-control-and-aquaculture/
https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/medals-and-awards/medals-and-awards-news/scott-medal-sensors-for-the-agricultural-sector/