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UniSQ researcher honoured as “leading light” for the irrigation industry

two men standing and smiling
Irrigation Australia CEO Dave Cameron (right) presented Erik Schmidt (left) with the MacLean-Iedema Award at the Irrigation Australia Conference (Credit: Irrigation Australia Ltd).

Irrigation expert Erik Schmidt may have “retired” but good luck stopping him from continuing to contribute to the industry to which he dedicated his long career.

The former University of Southern Queensland researcher continues to assist with numerous projects in irrigation, water use and evaporation.

It’s that dedication and his decades-long record of research excellence and innovation that has won him Irrigation Australia’s MacLean-Iedema Award, an accolade bestowed every second year to recognise someone who had made outstanding contributions to the industry.

Irrigation Australia CEO Dave Cameron presented Mr Schmidt with the award at the group’s recent national conference in Adelaide.

Mr Schmidt joined the University of Southern Queensland in 2003 to head up its National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture following an international career in engineering and agriculture research.

He led the centre as Director for nine years and as Deputy Director for another almost decade. The centre was subsequently renamed the Centre for Agricultural Engineering (CAE). Mr Schmidt continues his association with the University as an Industry Fellow.

Career highlights included providing expert oversight in the Smarter Irrigation for Profit programs; his role as a leader and innovator in the Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures; involvement with the commercialisation of the award-winning Irrimate technology for measurement and assessment of surface irrigation systems; leading international research for development projects in South and South East Asia; and authoring more than 65 journal and conference papers.

Current CAE Director Professor Bernadette McCabe said Mr Schmidt’s tenure saw him achieve great strides in the area of water management, supporting tools, and extension to irrigators and their advisers.

“Not only did he provide exceptional leadership in these research areas, he also has contributed to countless projects and initiatives,” she said.

“His mentorship of students and staff has cemented his enduring legacy not only at our University but the industry as a whole.”

CAE Senior Research Engineer (Irrigation and Water Engineering) Michael Scobie nominated Mr Schmidt for the award and was one of the many researchers to benefit from his guidance.

“I have worked with Erik on dozens of projects across Australia and Asia, in both large and small teams,” he said.

“The way he operates and leads these teams is extraordinary. He can challenge and bring together people from a range of disciplines and backgrounds to deliver amazing results.

“I’ve been blessed to have him as a mentor for almost 20 years and he has certainly had an impact on me, and my career with UniSQ.”

Learn more about the UniSQ Centre for Agricultural Engineering.