Competencies | Sustainability

Dirk Röse

Accompany customers closely

800,000 m³ of alternative components in the substrate

The substrate industry in Europe is undergoing a fundamental change. Peat, the most important raw material, is increasingly being replaced by alternative components. Manufacturers are therefore investing in new production facilities and resources, as well as research and development. Nurseries also have to adapt. Dr. Sebastian Kipp, Head of Product Development at Klasmann-Deilmann, talks about the progress made in this development.

For decades, horticulture was geared to peat.

Kipp: In fact, one can speak of a symbiosis that affects all cultivation-related factors. But now the substrate industry is repositioning itself. Less peat, more alternatives. Klasmann-Deilmann is developing a new generation of products that can replace previous peat growing media one-to-one.

Will that succeed?

Kipp: Yes, to a very high degree, but not completely. Many nurseries are already gaining experience with these new substrates. They know that they have to readjust their cultivation methods, for example in fertilization and water management. We work very closely with each individual customer on these points. The German government’s peat reduction strategy does not just affect the substrate sector, it also affects nurseries in particular. This is a great opportunity for our customers. Companies that drive forward their sustainable development now will benefit from competitive advantages in the future.

What are the major challenges?

Kipp: Klasmann-Deilmann used more than 800,000 m³ of alternative raw materials in growing media last year. That is a very considerable quantity, and we want to steadily increase it in the coming years. By the end of 2025, 30% of our international annual production should consist of alternative components, primarily wood fibers, green compost, bark, coir and perlite. The challenge lies in securing resources. We therefore increasingly rely on European partner companies such as Olde Bolhaar, which specialize in wood and compost. But we also create new resources overseas to meet the growing demand for substrates there, so that European raw materials can remain in Europe and be available to customers here. The expansion of reliable material flows has a global dimension.

Alternative raw materials are therefore also an international issue.

Kipp: It’s more a question of how seriously a producer takes the sustainability of its products. It is not credible if we reduce peat in Germany and continue to rely only on peat overseas. That is why we have redefined our international core range. Every substrate in our ADVANCED product line contains a balanced proportion of alternative raw materials. What works excellently in Germany or Europe, we are also taking forward internationally. Our ADVANCED substrates are high-performing, crop-safe and significantly more sustainable anywhere in the world. In fact, we are surprised at how rapidly demand for the new generation of substrates is growing.

What is the significance of sustainability in this context?

Kipp: The new substrates cause 20% to 80% fewer emissions. Due to the lighter raw materials, less pollutants are also produced during transport as a result of load optimization. This is a tangible step forward in terms of climate protection. In addition, we largely rely on renewable raw materials and thus follow natural cycles.

What about completely dispensing with peat?

Kipp: We know that it will not be possible to do without peat in the longer term. Peat remains a guarantor of successful crops; it makes a major contribution to the efficiency of nurseries. In addition, the past Corona years have shown that European raw materials are irreplaceable for supply capability and independence in local horticulture. Peat may be viewed critically, but it should not be condemned outright.

And what’s next?

Kipp: We are investing. Klasmann-Deilmann is the only company that will build a new substrate factory in Germany in order to serve the domestic market efficiently. Several substrate factories are in the pipeline worldwide, and we plan to use large quantities of renewable raw materials in all of them. In Germany, we are also a partner in all major research projects, which focus on the practical use of alternative raw materials in substrates. In the context of application-oriented product development, we also carry out hundreds of cultivation trials and research projects that help us move forward. Our physicum and our own experimental greenhouses provide the ideal environment for this. In our technical center, state-of-the-art horticultural technology ranging from tray filling systems to potting machines and press-pot lines is available to quickly bring new development approaches to product maturity.

What do you tell your customers?

Kipp: We know how to do it. Even when developing and using new raw materials and substrates, we remain a reliable partner. Our customers can be sure that they will always get the maximum possible from us with maximum crop safety.