November 21, 2023
On Nov. 8, the egg industry, all of agriculture, and the ag engineering community lost a great pioneer and friend in Dr. Richard S. Gates.
At the time of his passing, Gates was the director of the Egg Industry Center, a position he held since January of 2020. Gates joined Iowa State University with a joint professorial appointment in the Departments of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Animal Science. He came to Iowa State after a great career in the land grant system which included time at the University of Kentucky and the University of Illinois. During his time at those institutions, Gates’ work impacted over 110 students, both in the U.S. and abroad.
“We lost a great friend, colleague, scientist and advocate for the food sector,” said the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Endowed Dean’s Chair Daniel J. Robison.
Gates was awarded ISU’s Iowa Egg Council Endowed Professorship in March 2020. March also brought the dedication and ribbon cutting of the newly built Robert T. Hamilton Poultry Teaching and Research Farm at ISU and lockdowns due to COVID. Despite the lockdowns, Gates spent a great amount of time at the new poultry farm. He turned the new facility into a fun project for senior engineering students, helping them learn what it takes to commission a new facility. As a registered professional engineer, Gates often contended that commissioning a facility was an important, yet often overlooked process. The process he used at ISU provided valuable information to the students, farm managers, college administration and builders.
As the commissioning process advanced, Gates became involved in the building of the Stanley L. Balloun Turkey Teaching and Research Facility and enjoyed working with that industry’s stakeholders to help make their dreams become reality.
While in the office, Gates worked with the EIC Advisory Board members in driving forward a plan for enhanced research funding and administered the center’s first ever virtual Egg Industry Issues Forum.
In June 2020, he initiated what would become formally known as a U.S. Egg Industry Life Cycle Assessment. The industry’s LCA completed a successful ISO review process in July 2023 and egg farmers and stakeholders will begin using that information in 2024.
During this time, Gates recommitted the center to helping the industry pursue funds from USDA’s Sustainable Ag Systems initiative. This effort helped introduce Gates to a variety of stakeholders and colleagues who could work together to move the objectives of the egg industry forward in the realm of sustainability, something he was truly excited about. Gates was the force behind EIC joining the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Egg Production and enjoyed strategizing on new ways to help egg farmers tell their sustainability story.
As international detections of high path avian influenza continued in 2021, Gates could be seen talking with industry members and government bodies on standard operating procedures and protocols to help with emergency depopulation. In 2022, he secured funding to turn the calculation methods he had been using into an even more accessible and usable tool for the industry. A project now nearing completion.
Gates was a wealth of information when it came to livestock production, including air emissions and their mitigation, odor control and facility siting, environmental control systems, precision livestock farming, ventilation, manure management, and strategies for reducing heat stress. As part of the original team for the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study conducted in 2007-2010, Gates was uniquely qualified to lead a study looking into EPAs’ draft air emission models based on that data. Released in August of 2021, Gates commissioned those around him to dig into the science of the models and test them against today’s industry standards. This rigorous review of EPA’s draft models was conducted for eggs, broilers, and swine. The reports generated from that work pave the way for industry groups and industry individuals to provide scientifically informed comments on EPA’s policy when it is released.
Gates also shepherded a wealth of other information through the EIC during his time as director. This included several Processing, Cartoning and Transportation studies, numerous rounds of grant funding provided by EIC, COVID impact reports, the center’s first report comparing the cost of conventional and cage-free egg production, and much more. He loved his work, loved helping farmers individually with their questions and challenges, and genuinely loved engaging with anyone that wanted to talk about animal agriculture. He will be greatly missed by many.
Gates passed away in his home after a bravely fought battle with pancreatic cancer. His obituary contains more about his personal and professional journey. His family is located in several locations across the U.S. and Australia, so Gates’ celebration of life will be held in the future when his family and friends can best arrange to gather and remember him.
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