At the 18th World Congress on Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering held in September 2014 in Beijing, Professor Umezuruike Linus Opara, distinguished professor and SARChI Chair in Postharvest Technology was honoured for his services to agricultural engineering profession and research in postharvest technology.
During the congress, Prof. Opara presented an invited keynote paper on the role of postharvest technology in achieving the African agriculture transformation agenda and chaired technical sessions. During the Awards Ceremony, he was made an Honorary Vice President of the International Commission of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in recognition of his 'distinguished services' in promoting the advancement of agricultural engineering globally. In addition, Prof. Opara received the CIGR Merit Award for his services to the CIGR, which he has served in several capacities during the past 10 years, including the CIGR Technical Board and CIGR Executive Board, and was made Honorary Chair for Postharvest Technology and Process Engineering. During the Award Ceremony, the outgoing CIGR President Prof. Da-Wen Sun highlighted Prof. Opara's dedication and service to the agricultural engineering profession and his significant contributions to innovative research in postharvest technology and engineering. It was noted that during the 17th CIGR World Congress held in Quebec in 2010, Prof. Opara was presented with the Presidential Citation of the CIGR for his contributions in spreading CIGR mission and goals in Africa.
Considered as the 'Olympic' of agricultural and biosystem engineering, the World Congress of the CIGR, has been held every four year since 1930 as the top apex academic congress of the largest and most-renowned international academic institution in agricultural and biosystem engineering, the International Commission of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (Commission Internationale du Genie Rural, CIGR). During this 18th Congress, over 2000 scholars, experts and entrepreneurs from 59 countries discussed how to improve human quality of life through advanced research achievements in agricultural and biosystem engineering.
SARChI Postharvest Technology was established by Prof. Opara in 2009 in the Faculty of AgriSciences as a multi-disciplinary research and human capacity development programme focusing on postharvest technology of fresh produce. During the past 5 years, the Chair has produce PhD graduates who have taken up academic and research positions in South Africa and overseas, as well as several MSc students in fields ranging from horticultural science to food science and engineering. In addition to ongoing research to develop the next generation of novel packaging for handling whole and minimally processed fresh produce along the cold chain, the Chair is currently embarking on one of the largest research and development programmes on postharvest technology of pomegranates, an ancient fruit that has recently become an increasingly important export commodity in the South African horticultural industry.