HAMISH SHIACH, former head of the engineering division of the old North of Scotland College of Agriculture and a past president of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers, has died at the age of 90.

Mr Shiach was a pioneering and highly respected figure in agricultural engineering and a source of sound advice to generations of students and farmers in the North-east of Scotland and further afield.

He is credited with broadening advisory work from its wartime function of machinery instruction for operators with the introduction of an inter-disciplinary approach to the development of agricultural mechanisation systems, working in co-operation with soil, crops, animal and veterinary scientists and building and drainage specialists.

He drew heavily on his own hands-on experience as a farmer in the practical approach he adopted towards his machinery development, advisory and lecturing roles and was away ahead of his time in areas which are now common-place, such as renewable energy, anaerobic digestion, straw burning, wholecrop harvesting, slurry aeration, grass utilisation and the use of methane to generate electricity.

The son of a bank manager, Mr Shiach initially wanted to be a farmer but lack of funds precluded this option at the outset of his career. He graduated in both agriculture and engineering from Aberdeen University and joined the teaching staff on a part-time basis in 1952 as the university's first lecturer in agricultural engineering. He had earlier interrupted his studies toward the end of World War II to join the Royal Navy and was on his way to the Far East when the war ended.

But only a year later, he grasped the opportunity to buy the farm of North Faddonhill, Millbrex, where he established a piggery as well as starting to teach on a part-time basis. Six years later he was offered the tenancy of the 86ha farm of Sunnyside of Folla, Rothienorman, where he farmed initially dairy, and then beef and arable in partnership with his wife, Doreen, a former primary education adviser with the old Grampian Regional Council.

Following a revamp of the engineering division of the college in 1969, he was appointed head of the division on a full-time basis and chaired the engineering and farm buildings group within the Aberdeen School of Agriculture. A measure of his success and influence is that his initial team of four was expanded to more than 20 during his 19 years at the helm to cover the division's extensive teaching, advisory and research remit.

He was very much responsible for raising the status of agricultural and forestry engineering, working closely with colleagues in other disciplines to implement his systems approach. Close links were developed with the other two colleges in Scotland (East and West), Aberdeen University (where he continued to lecture), the Rowett Research Institute, the then Department of Agriculture and the IAgrE at Silsoe, Bedfordshire, where he became the first president to serve a two-year term.

He also started what became very popular and successful study tours to France for BSc students, returning with a hold full of bulk wine (on which he always paid the duty!). He later had a small heavy duty trailer made specifically for the year's supply of wine collected during annual family holidays to their gite in France. Even at the age of 86, four years ago and in ill-health, he insisted on driving to France to pick up his wine - and celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary.

Day-to-day management of his farming enterprise was left in the hands of his grieve to enable him to concentrate on his full-time job with most of the field work being carried out by contractors. However, he greatly enjoyed his direct involvement in farming, which he felt was beneficial to his job, and served as a branch chairman of the National Farmers Union of Scotland. He was also an assessor for the Scottish Association of Young Farmers' proficiency tests programme, which did so much to teach young farmers and farm workers the practical skills involved in farming.

Following his retirement in 1988, he was a key member of the Aberdeen University Agricultural Graduates Association, serving as treasurer for 15 years and made Honorary President in 2012. Until 2012, he also ran the "Grazers", an informal organisation for retired employees of the college.

Mr Shiach is survived by his wife, Doreen, two sons, Donald and Alasdair, two daughters, Caroline and Morag, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.