The following is a brief narrative of major developments that led to the current CIGR organization.
In the 1930s, Agricultural Engineering generally played a marginal role in Europe, although this varied from country to country. Various new machines had been developed or improved for agricultural use in the course of the preceding century, but despite the importance of agricultural engineering for the primary sector, development was still slow and limited in scope. The design of agricultural machines and buildings was based on skills and accumulated experience rather than co-ordinated scientific research. The same applies to post-harvesting technologies and greenhouses as well as ergonomics, safety and work organisation. Environmental protection and sustainable land development did not become subjects of scientific research until much later.
To foster the international co-operation of researchers and to combine it with a concern for positive physical work conditions in farming and in rural activities, the International Commission of Agricultural Engineering was founded in 1930 in Liège, Belgium, by a small group of farsighted European agricultural engineering scientists from Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK. According to the report of this "Congrès International du Génie Rural", the Constitution of the International Commission of Agricultural Engineering was declared effective on August 5, 1930 at 11:30 A.M. in the Academic Hall of the University of Liège.
In the Founding Declaration of 1930 it says:
"Considering the necessity of a coordination of the works or applications in the technical sciences, building arts and mechanics in agriculture, the whole designated by agricultural engineering, the International Congress of Agricultural Engineering decides to found the INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING, abbreviated CIGR, independent from all other similar institutions, disposed to work in close collaboration with the existing International Institute of Agriculture in Rome and with the International Labor Organization in Geneva".
The main role of CIGR was summarized in three words: liaison, coordination and initiative.
On this basis, the founding congress made a first attempt to develop an agricultural engineering curriculum to combine research and activities from various branches of study in the interest of further international progress. It defined areas on which the work of CIGR should concentrate in its four Technical Sections:
The scientific problems in the scope of agricultural engineering were few and relatively simple, and the main field of research in agricultural engineering in the 1930s was tool implementation in agriculture. Farm machinery, adapted mechanics, machine testing and standardization became main subjects while scientific labour organization strongly accentuated attitude, living and health conditions in all human work.
When the role of the CIGR was defined as liaison, coordination and initiative, this was in reaction to a number of shortcomings and challenges which agricultural engineering had to face at the time. The principle of liaison was a reaction to the fact that most specialists stilled ignored their neighbours' work and cultivated a lack of trust in other professionals. A closer coordination of research and co-operation in all projects was necessary to highlight the importance of the agricultural engineering discipline within the specific education programs of agronomists. CIGR decided to act and to take the initiative in these areas. A reciprocal exchange of information and of practical and experimental results had to be encouraged and realized among agricultural engineers worldwide. Society development needed co-ordination and co-operation.
Although the activities and objectives of CIGR were relatively circumscribed at the time, the organisation of international agricultural engineering congresses at intervals of five years was a basis for the development of a strong international community of agricultural engineers. Five years after the Foundation Congress in 1930, the II CIGR World Congress in 1935 in Madrid, Spain, discussed subjects from the four areas defined in 1930. Attracting a few hundred scientists and technicians, it was the second in a series of regular CIGR World Congresses which continues to this day, although World War II cancelled the III CIGR World Congress scheduled to take place in 1940 in Italy.
After the human and material catastrophe of the World War II, agriculture was only one area in which an immense rebuilding effort was necessary. Demography was seriously affected, distorted economies had to be reoriented, and societies had to sprout again. Farm materials and equipment had to be rebuilt, renewed or even created. It was necessary to provide for the population's needs as fast as possible.
Although all contacts between CIGR members had been cut off since 1939, CIGR reorganised soon after the war. The first post-war CIGR International Congress was held in Rome in 1951, but the documentation of administrative meetings of CIGR reaches back at least to October 1946.
From the end of the 50s, once the problems of the post-war period were concluded, the sector experienced considerable and unexpected growth which led to a gradual upturn in CIGR's membership which made it necessary to modify and expand the underlying structure. CIGR needed to become a truly international association, with a progressive and greater involvement of extra-European countries from all continents.
Despite the dawning of the Cold War, CIGR meetings retained their international orientation and provided favourable circumstances for meetings of agricultural engineers from East and West. It was not easy to overcome administrative interference, but CIGR meetings were central occasions for scientific, technical and personal exchanges between agricultural engineers from East and West. The contribution of CIGR during that difficult period to professional liaison and the pursuit of common interests despite ideological differences must be stressed.
Until the 1970s, CIGR remained mostly a European organisation, which is reflected in the locales of the World Congresses. The CIGR World Congress in East Lansing, USA 1979, however, foretold the truly international orientation that CIGR would develop after 1989.
The dismantling of the Berlin wall in 1989 also marked a watershed in the history of CIGR. Although there had been a clear trend towards even closer exchanges with regional associations and national societies in the world for more than a decade, CIGR has since 1989 become a worldwide platform with a stronger international orientation than ever as new national and regional societies have joined efforts within CIGR.
The Statutes was declared effective on 5 August, 1930 at 1st International Congress of Agricultural Engineering in Liège, Belgium.
CIGR successfully adapted its structure to the intensified international contacts which have developed over the past decade. On 1 January 1995, a new set of CIGR statutes became effective in which the aims of CIGR were reformulated and expanded to:
With the statutes being effective on 1 Jun 1995, CIGR has found a balance between, on the one hand, playing a strategic role of technical and scientific support at world level and, on the other hand, supporting, without infringement of competencies, the activities of its regional and national Agricultural Engineering associates. As part of this mutually beneficial solution in the service of co-operation and sustained development, each new associate of CIGR has been required to fully and completely endorse the basic objectives of CIGR.
These basic objectives remained unchanged in the slightly revised version of the statutes which became effective on 1 January 2001.
The latest revised version of the statutes was approved at the General Assembly held in Iguassu Falls City, Brazil on 3 September 2008. In that revision, the English name of CIGR was changed from ‘International Commission of Agricultural Engineering’ to ‘International Commission of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering’ for reflecting the international trends of Agricultural Engineering facing the 21st century.
In the 1990s, CIGR increasingly made use of the worldwide web to provide its services to agricultural engineers free of charge. In 1998, this website (now linked to www.cigr.org) went online, hosted by the University College Dublin.
The CIGR Electronic Journal Agricultural Engineering International has been in operation as a peer reviewed technical journal since 1999, making available:
Also in 1999, the CIGR-FAO Global Network went online, hosted by FAO in Rome. This is a forum of discussion and news disseminating groups, which are organized in accordance with the CIGR Technical Sections. The CIGR Handbook of Agricultural Engineering covers the whole field of agricultural engineering applications. It was published in 1999 as five hardcover volumes with a total of more than 2,400 pages, and is alternatively available on CD-ROM. A sixth volume, Information Technology is under preparation
The development of the Technical Sections of CIGR reflects some of the basic developments which have taken place in agricultural engineering in the past decades. Over the years, three new Technical Sections have been added to the original four as CIGR has kept up with new directions and the development of new technologies used in agricultural engineering.
The mission of Section I has remained in the same area; however, new topics were included, such as: soil protection and conservation, rural planning, rural infrastructure. In order to keep a short name for the section, the lengthy title was condensed to Land & Water Engineering.
This Section still deals with farm buildings; however, new aspects were included over the years, incorporating environmental protection, informatics for environment and buildings, farm planning and waste management. The new title for this section is Farm Buildings, Equipment, Structures & Environment.
During the 1964 CIGR Congress in Lausanne, the original Section III was split up into two separate Sections. The wide area of electricity was divided into rural electricity, which was shifted into a new section, and electrical equipment for farm machinery. The latter now includes artificial intelligence, modelling and information systems, and advanced physics. Sharpened in its direction as a result of the 1964 change, Section III was later renamed Equipment Engineering for Plant Production.
The present Section IV is the other result of the 1964 split. The rural energy part of Section III was enhanced by the demand for rationalisation of energy consumption as well as automation and control. Two decades later, further topics on use of renewable energy sources and related technologies were included. The section now has the title Rural Energy & Other Energy Sources.
As a result of the 1964 split, the original Section IV changed its name and number into Section IV: Management, Ergonomics & Systems Engineering. The 70s and 80s were years in which the problems of farm management, human workload, health, ergonomics, and farm safety began to become subject of intensive and systematic studies. A methodological tool for these studies was and is systems engineering, with extension to sociology.
A general view on agriculture makes it clear that the primary production is only part of the whole process that ends with usage of the products by the consumer or end user. Physical properties of food and non-food materials, processing, and quality of final products are important topics. This led to the foundation of Section VI: Postharvest Technology and Process Engineering.
The latest addition to the list of Technical Sections of CIGR is Section VII:Information Systems. This section was founded after endorsement by the CIGR Executive Board during its meeting in Toronto, Canada, in the year 1999, and approved at the World Congress in Tsukuba, Japan, in 2000. Of course, information technology is to be found in almost all agricultural applications. However, a systematic treatment that is not directly devoted to special applications needs a forum, which was created within CIGR by the foundation of this cross-sectional section.
* Prof. László Lehoczky became Vice-President in 1979. In 1980, when CIGR President Edminster died, Lehoczky replaced him in office. He was elected President of CIGR in 1984 and remained in office until 1989.
For students and young members under 30 years of age for presenting excellent papers at a World Congress
For authors of the Electronic Journal who have contributed an excellent paper to E-Journal volumes published since the preceding World Congress. Candidates are recommended by the Editor-in-Chief.
For members who have achieved remarkable works for CIGR
Sponsored by industry companies, for people who have made extraordinary achievements for the development of agricultural engineering related technologies through CIGR activities.
Sponsored by the Italian Unione Nazionale Construttori Macchine Agricole.
Sponsored by the Japan Farm Machinery Manufacturers' Association.
Sponsored by the Korea Agricultural Machinery & Industry Cooperative.
Sponsored by Mr. Y. Kishida.
For former CIGR officers who have made remarkable achievements:
CIGR presents a title of CIGR Fellow to those who have made and are expected to continue making great contributions to the worldwide activities of CIGR.
The award of CIGR Fellows is discontinued and replaced by Fellows of iAABE elected by the International Academy of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (iAABE).
Recognition is made by presenting a certificate from the President at the World Congress.
The Organization Committee or the Society organizing the event in question can prepare special honors and recognition in the name of the organization and CIGR, in consultation with the Award Nominating Committee, to praise those distinguished people who contributed much to the national or regional activities of CIGR. The honors and recognition can be given either by the President of CIGR or the representative of the National/Regional organization on the occasion of or after the World Congress / conference.