Stellenbosch University's chief operating officer, Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen, has been acknowledged by the South African deciduous fruit industry for his leadership role in the agricultural sector. Prof van Huyssteen, a former dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences, is the recipient of the 2017 OSH Reinecke Frontrunner Award.
The award was presented to him at the South African deciduous fruit industry's 42nd annual gala evening.
According to Prof van Huyssteen he experienced incredible job satisfaction during his career in agriculture. "The hunger and receptiveness of the Fruit Industry for new technology and solutions to their challenges was very stimulating," said Prof Van Huyssteen. "Of course, one does not work for awards or recognition, so when this special award was made to me, it once again gave me a deep sense of appreciation for this wonderful industry and for the exceptional people that work in it," he added.
Prof van Huyssteen received all his qualifications from Stellenbosch University, including a PhD in Soil Science. He has been a member of staff since January 1999, when he was appointed as chair of the SU Department of Soil and Agricultural Water Science. He served as dean from October 1999. Two videos based mainly on his research into soil preparation and tillage spanning multiple years were awarded the international OIV Prize in France as the best transfer of technology in the audio-visual medium.
He became the director of the ARC Nitvoorbij Institute for Viticulture and Oenology in 1993, and played a crucial role in commercialising its research work once this entity moved beyond the civil service. Later he also served as director of the newly formed ARC-Institute for Fruit, Vine and Wine, after two ARC institutes, Infruitec and Nietvoorbij, amalgamated under his leadership.
During his career of more than 40 years, Prof van Huyssteen has served in many professional societies, committees and councils. He was among others a council member and president of the Soil Science Society of South Africa, a council member of the ARC, and a member of the Elsenburg Agricultural College council. He was also a council member and vice-chair of Winetech's council. Prof van Huyssteen still chairs the Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products initiative (ASNAPP South Africa). This endeavour focusses on the production of natural plant products by resource poor communities in Africa.
Over the years, his work has been commended by the South African Society for Oenology and Viticulture, the Soil Science Society of South Africa and Agricultural Writers Western Cape. Two videos based mainly on his research over many years about soil preparation and tillage were awarded the international OIV Prize (Office Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin) in France in 1992 as the best example of the transfer of technology through audio-visual means. He is also an honorary member of the South African Society for Oenology and Viticulture, and the Fertilizer Society of South Africa.
- In 2016, the deciduous fruit industry included 2 252 producers with a total turnover of R13,63 billion per annum. In terms of world production, South Africa ranked in the top ten for pears, in the top twenty for apples, apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums, and 64th for cherries. The bulk of deciduous fruit production takes place in the Western Cape.