Dirk Röse

A hid­den cham­pion worthy of support

Eco­no­mics minis­ter Bernd Althus­mann visits Klasmann-Deilmann

Klasmann-Deilmann recent­ly had a VIP guest: Bernd Althus­mann, Lower Saxony’s minis­ter for eco­no­mic affairs, labour, trans­port and digi­ti­sa­ti­on. He was accom­pa­nied by Rein­hard Win­ter (the Ems­land district’s chief exe­cu­ti­ve offi­cer), Bernd Cars­ten Hie­bing (a mem­ber of the Sta­te Par­lia­ment) and Hel­mut Höke (mayor of the muni­ci­pa­li­ty of Gees­te). Mana­ging Direc­tors Moritz Böcking and Bernd Weh­ming sur­pri­sed the visi­tors with a com­ple­te­ly new approach to res­to­ring the Tin­ner Dose peat­land reser­ve dama­ged by last summer’s fire.

It may well be that our federal sta­te can boast a hid­den cham­pion – one we need to keep a clo­se eye on in terms of oppor­tu­nities to pro­vi­de sup­port,” said Bernd Althus­mann in an inter­view with regio­nal news­pa­per Neue Osna­brü­cker Zei­tung. Klasmann-Deilmann had just pre­sen­ted various pro­jects that could be a good fit with Lower Saxony’s stra­te­gy for the future, for the envi­ron­ment and for digitisation.

Klasmann-Deilmann’s pro­po­sal for res­to­ring the Tin­ner Dose peat­land reser­ve attrac­ted par­ti­cu­lar atten­ti­on. In the pre­vious sum­mer, a fire, in which a lar­ge expan­se of peat turf smoul­de­red for several weeks, cau­sed exten­si­ve dama­ge in the Tin­ner Dose bog area and cau­sed con­si­derable CO2 emis­si­ons. The solu­ti­on cur­r­ent­ly being sought is re-wet­ting of the affec­ted land. Howe­ver, Moritz Böcking rai­sed an intri­guing alter­na­ti­ve pro­spect: that of lar­ge-sca­le plan­ting of Spha­gnum peat moss. “Our high­ly suc­cess­ful Spha­gnum-far­ming pro­ject pro­vi­ded us with several years of expe­ri­ence in this area,” Böcking exp­lai­ned. “With the sys­te­ma­tic dis­tri­bu­ti­on of peat moss, the time­frame requi­red for suc­cess­ful peat­land res­to­ra­ti­on is con­si­der­ab­ly shor­ter. The Spha­gnum typi­cal of the­se bogs quick­ly beco­mes estab­lis­hed, flo­ra and fau­na return, and absorp­ti­on of gases harm­ful to the cli­ma­te begins much ear­lier than with the con­ven­tio­nal res­to­ra­ti­on mea­su­res.” Bernd Althus­mann and Rein­hard Win­ter asked the Mana­ging Direc­tors to make a con­cept paper avail­ab­le as soon as possible.

In this con­text, Klasmann-Deilmann sug­gested that Lower Saxony’s peat­land pro­tec­tion legis­la­ti­on – adop­ted in the 1980s – be amen­ded. To date, the focus of the­se laws has been on res­to­ring for­mer peat extrac­tion sites by re-wet­ting. Throughout the federal sta­te, the­re are several thousand hec­ta­res of degra­ded peat­land who­se res­to­ra­ti­on the sta­te must pay for using public funds. Klasmann-Deilmann made refe­rence to various rese­arch pro­jects that have, in recent years, given rise to new opti­ons for the sus­tainab­le manage­ment of for­mer com­mer­cial peat­fiel­ds, and who­se imple­men­ta­ti­on is acce­le­ra­ting the achie­ve­ment of envi­ron­men­tal and cli­ma­te objec­ti­ves – goals that can be achie­ved by the pri­va­te sec­tor, thus easing the bur­den on the state’s budget.

The incre­a­sing use of alter­na­ti­ve con­sti­tu­ents such as wood fib­re and green com­post in gro­wing media also met with the visi­tors’ appro­val. Moritz Böcking poin­ted out: “We’re at a loca­ti­on whe­re we will no lon­ger have our own peat resour­ces in a few years’ time.” In view of this, Klasmann-Deilmann is con­cen­tra­ting its acti­vi­ties on pro­du­cing rene­wa­ble resour­ces and explo­ring com­ple­te­ly new mate­ri­als for sub­stra­te manu­fac­tu­re in Gees­te. In this con­nec­tion, Sta­te Par­lia­ment mem­ber Bernd Cars­ten Hie­bing thank­ed Klasmann-Deilmann for “kee­ping the inno­va­ti­ve part of the com­pa­ny in the Ems­land regi­on.” Bernd Weh­ming and Moritz Böcking stres­sed that every effort is being made to pur­sue rese­arch and deve­lo­p­ment based in Lower Sax­o­ny, and that sub­stan­ti­al invest­ment will be made. They added that, bea­ring in mind the limi­ted scope for a com­pa­ny cha­rac­te­ri­sed by an SME cul­tu­re, sta­te-fun­ded deve­lo­p­ment of peat sub­sti­tu­tes could expe­di­te the pha­sing-out of peat use. “The federal sta­te of Lower Sax­o­ny is at the cent­re of the deba­te on ending peat extrac­tion,” Böcking said, “and it would be good if the decisi­ve impe­tus for new raw mate­ri­als, inno­va­ti­ve gro­wing sys­tems or novel busi­ness models in com­mer­cial hor­ti­cul­tu­re were to come from here.”

In this con­nec­tion, Mana­ging Direc­tor Bernd Weh­ming and Dr Sebas­ti­an Kipp, who heads the Rese­arch and Deve­lo­p­ment depart­ment, pre­sen­ted the acti­vi­ties for the company’s digi­ti­sa­ti­on – a field in which major advan­ces have alrea­dy been made. “Digi­ti­sing busi­ness pro­ces­ses is lea­ding to high effi­ci­en­cy gains at Klasmann-Deilmann,” Weh­ming remar­ked. “And we always have cus­to­mer bene­fits in mind. To a lar­ge extent, we see the value of digi­tal pro­ces­ses in terms of enhan­cing ulti­ma­te cus­to­mer satis­fac­tion still further.”

Sebas­ti­an Kipp then repor­ted on cur­rent pro­jects aimed at digi­ti­sing com­mer­cial hor­ti­cul­tu­re at an inter­na­tio­nal level. In con­nec­tion with the con­struc­tion of the new Inno­va­ti­on Cen­ter, Rese­arch Cen­ter and Tech­ni­kum or tech­ni­cal cent­re (due for com­ple­ti­on in the sum­mer of 2019), Klasmann-Deilmann is pro­vi­ding pre­mi­ses and skil­led pro­fes­sio­nals who, here in Lower Sax­o­ny, can be instru­men­tal in digi­ti­sing the modern hor­ti­cul­tu­ral-pro­duc­tion indus­try throughout the world. Joint rese­arch pro­jects with uni­ver­si­ties, insti­tu­tes, and the pri­va­te sec­tor – inclu­ding start-ups – can be imple­men­ted at cor­po­ra­te head­quar­ters in Gees­te. One pro­ject Klasmann-Deilmann is pur­suing invol­ves the record­ing (manu­al­ly or by sen­sors) and trans­mis­si­on of essen­ti­al data gene­ra­ted by a nur­s­e­ry. This means that, in the future, spe­cia­lists in Gees­te will be able to remo­te­ly influ­ence growth pro­ces­ses in busi­nes­ses loca­ted, for examp­le, in Chi­na or other over­seas mar­kets, and impro­ve their pro­duc­ti­vi­ty. Rapid exchan­ge of data and auto­ma­ted crop manage­ment inst­ruc­tions will make this possible.

Our visi­on is to be able to posi­tively influ­ence and con­trol growth pro­ces­ses in under-glass cul­ti­va­ti­on all over the world from right here in Lower Sax­o­ny,” Moritz Böcking said. He poin­ted out that, espe­cial­ly with regard to the incre­a­sing chal­len­ges in fee­ding the world’s popu­la­ti­on, it was beco­m­ing more and more vital to be able to reli­ab­ly ensu­re crop per­for­mance. “Lower Sax­o­ny could beco­me the pioneer of advan­ces like the­se – and we are thin­king up the tech­no­lo­gy for this today.”

In con­clu­si­on, minis­ter of eco­no­mic affairs Bernd Althus­mann noted that Lower Sax­o­ny “is, perhaps now more than ever, in the for­tu­n­a­te posi­ti­on of being able to invest in the future and sup­port ground-brea­king pro­jects.” Befo­re he and the other visi­tors left the Inno­va­ti­on Cent­re, he took time to talk with voca­tio­nal trai­nee René Föcke, who took the minis­ter on a quick vir­tu­al-rea­li­ty tour of the company.