Pioneering the use of a new technology in Victoria's feed and fodder industry that is still in wide use more than 30 years later has earned Dunkeld's Peter Flinn an Australia Day honour.
Mr Flinn, who was made a member of the order of Australia, said the honour had come as a shock.
"I agonised quite a bit as to whether to accept it. I felt I was basically just doing my job," he said.
"It's certainly an honour."
In the 1980s, the Hamilton-based analytical chemist won a five-year battle for funding to be able to use a technique known as near infrared spectroscopy (NIR) to test feed and fodder quality.
"I didn't develop the technology itself, what I did was make it work for farmers," he said.
At that time, traditional laboratory methods for measuring protein, fibre and energy in agricultural materials like hay, silage, grain and pasture was time consuming and dated back to the 19th century.
His plan was to use the NIR technique, which had already found success in the measurement of protein in grain, to rapidly test the quality of other agricultural commodities and he became the first to do it in the fodder industry.
When the technology was first used it would take up to 12 hours to run the data but now, with advances in technology, it takes just two minutes.
"The whole concept of rapid measurement of fodder quality is of incredible importance to both the buyer and the seller and it's traded now on that basis," he said.
But convincing people to fund the expensive $100,000 machine in the 1980s was tough.
"There was a lot of scepticism in both the scientific fraternity and in the bureaucracy. This machine some people regarded as black magic," he said.
After years of endless rejections, all it took to get the bulk of the funding was a 10-minute meeting with livestock exporters who saw the potential of the instrument as a way of responding to a Senate committee's demand for rapid monitoring of pelleted diets during long sea journeys.
But the funding came in the form of a loan, and to help pay it back Mr Flinn started a feed-quality testing service for farmers now widely known as Feedtest.
"It was revolutionary for farmers to pay the Ag Department for the test. I had to get the minister's approval," he said.
Near infrared spectroscopy technology is now widely used in other areas such as the food industry, textiles, medical research and pharmaceuticals.
Out of another research project into standardising the measurement of fodder quality across Australia, Mr Flinn helped form the Australian Fodder Industry Association of which he is a life member.
He also set up the Australian Near Infrared Spectroscopy Group in Hamilton and was chairman for 28 years. For four years he was chairman of the International Council of Near Infrared Spectroscopy which runs international conferences.
"When I first got involved there was no university in Australia that had any expertise in NIR," he said.
So in 1987, Mr Flinn spent six months at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland to get more experience in the field.
After leaving the agricultural department, Mr Flinn continued to work on a 20-year wide-ranging Australia-wide feed and grain research project.
He has also been involved in the Dunkeld Rural Fire Brigade since 1973.
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