Plant and Food research scientist Dr Philip Elmer won a lifetime award at last month’s Kudos Awards.
Dr Elmer leads a plant research team with more patents and biological product success than any other in New Zealand, and won the University of Waikato Lifetime Achievement award on September 27.
He began his science career in the 1980s wanting to make a difference. While most were focused on finding new pesticides, Phil saw the tide was starting to flow toward organics and consumer demand for food without pesticide residue.
In 1997 his skills were put to the test dealing with a crisis in the New Zealand wine industry. Fungicides used to control grape rot were failing and leaving detectable residues in wine. Phil led the development of innovative biological controls, which were later patented and have become a global export as well as being critical to sustainable practice in the local wine industry.
Dr Elmer’s team achieved similar success delivering integrated pest management practices and tools to the NZ summerfruit industry. Since 2010, Phil’s experience has been critical in the response to vine-killing bacterial disease Psa, helping to fast-track the planting of new kiwifruit lines.
Earlier in the evening Phil’s Ruakura Plant Pathology team won the Kudos Science Trust Agricultural Science Award. His team also received the Prime Minister’s Science Prize for this work in 2017.
“Being a recipient of the Waikato University Lifetime achievement award is a huge honour for me and also for The New Zealand Institute of Plant & Food Research,” he said.
“No one achieves an award like this without the love and support of family, friends and work colleagues and the hard work, dedication and friendship of the close-knit team I have the honour of leading at Ruakura.”
Wine industry leader Dr John Forrest, says: “Phil has that rare gift of being an academic scientist who is able to communicate with everyone, plus he’s a great team leader.”
His pioneering work has put New Zealand at the forefront of sustainable fruit and vegetable production.
Eight categories of science excellence were awarded at the Kudos Awards, including medical, engineering, environmental and agricultural science plus recognition of science educators, lab technicians and emerging scientists.
The Kudos Awards are run by the Kudos Science Trust, an independent advocate for science and innovation in the region.
“These evenings are unique as the only regional science awards in New Zealand,” says Trust chair Prof Ross Lawrenson. “The Kudos awards demonstrate the contribution made by our Waikato scientists. They have pioneered many tools, made ground breaking discoveries, led major research projects leading to commercialisation and support our region’s economic contribution – not only to New Zealand but internationally.”
The 2018 Kudos Award winners:
Dr Philip Elmer, University of Waikato Lifetime Achievement Award
Andrea Soanes, Wintec Secondary Science Teacher/Educator Award
Kathleen Dabell, Hill Laboratories Laboratory Technician Award
Dr Brendon Gill, Hamilton City Council Emerging Scientist Award
Dr James Carson, Simcro Engineering Science Award
Ruakura Plant Pathology Team, Kudos Science Trust Agricultural Science Award
Dr Corinne Watts, Waikato Regional Council Environmental Science Award
Michael Kaplan MD, PhD, Waikato DHB Medical Science Award