Sadly, Professor Robin Graham, who was at the Waite from 1970 to the mid-2000’s, passed away on Saturday at Victor Harbour, aged 80.

Robin was a gentleman and a fine scientist, teacher and mentor. His PhD students included Chunyuan Huang, Yusuf Genc, Julia Humphries, James Stangoulis, Paul Lonergan and Graham Lyons.

Previously a Professor of plant nutrition at the University of Adelaide, Robin was renowned globally for quality micronutrient analyses and led the University’s Plant Nutrition Group and established Waite Analytical Services.

Along with friends and colleagues Ross Welch (a soil scientist from Cornell University) and Howarth (Howdy) Bouis (an economist at the International Food Policy Research Institute), Robin co-founded HarvestPlus in 2003, which sought to use agriculture to improve human health through countering the effects of micronutrient malnutrition by developing, in a process called biofortification, staple food crops that are rich in micronutrients.

Howarth (“Howdy”) Bouis remembers Robin below:

Professor Robin Graham (left) with Dr Howarth Bouis and Dr Ross Welch
during a visit to the Waite in 2016.

“Robin was soft-spoken and humble on the outside, always a gentleman. On the inside, he held fiercely to scientific truths as he saw them, never wavered to compromise with a wider group of scientists. Yet his ideas were always evolving. He read the human nutrition voraciously. Along with Ross, he believed that iron bioavailability (iron from plants) in humans was much higher than was the conventional wisdom in the nutrition community at the time. The iron rice efficacy trial conducted in the Philippines, provided evidence that he and Ross were correct.

Despite his stubbornly held scientific views, or perhaps because he was so often proved correct after some time had passed, Robin was awarded the C.M. Donald medal in 2008 by the Australian Society of Agronomy.

Robin was a great teacher. In simple terms, he taught me, an economist, several basic tenets of plant nutrition, and plant science more broadly.”

Howarth Bouis

former Director, HarvestPlus, Washington DC

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