Erika Watson awarded 2013 AIAST Medal for Young Professional in Agriculture Industry

4 June 2013

Erika Watson, Fresh Produce Safety Project Officer at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, was awarded the prestigious 2013 Young Professional in Agricultural Industry Award, presented by the Australian Institute for Agricultural Science and Technology (AIAST).

The award recognises the outstanding contribution to the advancement of agriculture in Australia by an AIAST member under 35 and is awarded annually, only if the AIAST board considers a candidate to be of sufficient merit.

The award was announced on the 27 May 2013, at the recent AIAST event "Paddock, Plate, Soil: Reducing Food Waste" in Sydney by the Institute. The idea for the event was spearheaded by Erika Watson, an active member of the Institute since 2009 and current NSW Division Secretary/Treasurer. Erika is passionate about reducing food waste and the resources it takes to produce it.

"I am thrilled to receive this award, and excited to continue working towards addressing the many environmental and social issues faced by the agriculture sector" Says Erika Watson.

"Agriculture is so much a part of the daily life of all Australians, and we need to raise awareness of the amazing contribution agriculture makes and the issues agriculture faces, not only those working in the agricultural sector".

Erika works with The University of Sydney and Produce Marketing Association Australia & New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) on a collaborative project, towards the establishment a Fresh Produce Safety Centre, which will be dedicated to improving food safety for the fresh fruit and vegetable industries. The proposed Centre will be affiliated to the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) at the University of California, Davis in the US.

Erika Watson
Erika Watson

Prior to this role, Erika worked internationally for the Forum for European and Australian Science and Technology (F.E.A.S.T) Corporation. Erika completed her Bachelor of Horticultural Science (USyd) with first class honours (2010), winning the James M Vincent Prize in Agricultural or Environmental Microbiology while also working in the ARC Centre for Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.

Previous to studies in Horticulture she studied Fine Arts at the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) and uses these skills to manage her independent business as a children's entertainer and workshop coordinator.

This has enhanced her ability to reach out to younger generations, volunteering her time to mentor year 3 to year 8 students in science projects on plant and food science and promoting the diverse careers in agriculture. Erika has also lectured in Postharvest Horticulture to senior year undergraduates at the University of Sydney.

"We are very proud of Erika for winning this award", said Dr Daniel Tan, President of the AIAST NSW Division. "Erika brings to the agricultural industry her unique talents combining her scientific rigour with an artistic flair to see the big picture."

Associate Professor Robyn McConchie who currently works with Erika in fresh produce safety at the University of Sydney says "Erika is a very worthy recipient of this prestigious award. She is committed to the success and sustainability of the food industry. The industry has not only benefitted from her fresh and exciting ideas but also her enthusiasm and talent."

Contact: Associate Professor Robyn McConchie

Phone: 02 8627 1045

Email: 25045a341a60594c15583c060c580113112c3d1713491b17063c6f5430