Alina Strickmann

An important player in the Emsland economic region

Minister for Economic Affairs Olaf Lies visits Klasmann-Deilmann

Olaf Lies, Lower Saxony’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Employment and Transport, recently visited Klasmann-Deilmann in Geeste. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to present our company as representative of the Emsland economic region,” said Moritz Böcking, Managing Director at Klasmann-Deilmann. Minister Lies was impressed by the firm’s efforts to develop innovative raw materials and to use these as substitutes for peat. “Growing media are indispensable to modern horticulture,” he affirmed. “They play a pivotal role in the value chain of the food industry. In seeking alternatives to peat and developing innovative raw materials, companies such as Klasmann-Deilmann are leading by example.”

The discussions focused on cutting-edge issues that will be of key importance for the firm over the next 10 years. Summing up, Moritz Böcking said, “There is a considerable overlap between Lower Saxony’s stand on major policy issues and Klasmann-Deilmann’s intentions. We both need to take advantage of this to our mutual benefit.”

For example, Klasmann-Deilmann has, alongside peat, for many years been increasingly focusing on alternative constituents suitable for growing-media production. There is, however, competition for the necessary raw wood materials and residual green waste, which are being used more and more as an energy source. “Where scarce resources are competed for, this is to the detriment of substrate producers and thus hinders the achievement of the federal state’s policy, namely to accelerate the phasing out of peat extraction and to call for alternatives,” Moritz Böcking commented. “In this respect, we need to see equal opportunities for both branches of industry in the future.” Olaf Lies added that the firm could count on the state government’s support.

Funding for research projects to develop new raw materials

At the same time, Klasmann-Deilmann is also looking into new ingredients for substrate manufacture. As part of these activities, the company launched the world’s largest Sphagnum-farming project, which is part-funded by the federal-state government, in the autumn of 2015. “In the coming years, we will considerably expand our research and development work and explore completely new paths,” explained Moritz Böcking. “Successes that we achieve in this context may prove crucial for commercial horticulture worldwide, underline the innovativeness of Lower Saxony’s economy and, indirectly, help achieve Germany’s environmental and climate protection objectives.”

A support programme is desirable here that benefits the horticultural and substrate sector, in which companies are predominantly small and medium-sized and not able to fully fund extensive research projects. Minister Lies agreed to this idea in principle: “It’s important that, where on the one hand we place limits on an industry in terms of raw-material extraction, we should on the other hand also make alternative options available.”

Moritz Böcking added: “Within this context, and in line with Lower Saxony’s climate and nature conservation goals, a debate should be launched to achieve greater flexibility in the after use of peat production sites.” The commercial use of former extraction areas for paludiculture could prove path-breaking.

Renewable resources dependent on land prices

Böcking also sees scope for political action with regard to the Klasmann-Deilmann Group’s activities in the field of renewable energy and resources. “The wood fuels that we obtain from short rotation forestry plantations could make a significant contribution to the success of the energy transition.” This is precluded by the excessive prices for agricultural land in Germany, which prevent this business segment expanding in an economically sound manner. In Böcking’s view, one way forward is to promote more extensive uses of farmland – such as short rotation forestry – which would lead to a win-win situation in terms of the environment, agriculture and companies such as Klasmann-Deilmann.

Finally, Böcking thanked Minister Lies for showing interest in an industry that is not often the centre of public attention. Lies expressed his gratitude to Böcking for a stimulating inside look at a medium-sized family business with “a clear vision of the future”, and is looking forward to “initiating smart projects in cooperation with the Ministry’s Environment and Agriculture departments. Companies like Klasmann-Deilmann, who retain and create good and secure jobs, deserve support from the federal state.”