Dirk Röse

Specialists from all over the world in virtual exchange

Klasmann-Deilmann hosts international Innovation Summit

More innovations, less peat and always renewable raw materials. The Klasmann-Deilmann Group’s Innovation Summit advanced those issues that are at the top of the agenda in European commercial horticulture. Guest speakers and audience members were tuned in from around the world, streaming the virtual event from the specially set up broadcast studio in Klasmann-Deilmann’s Innovation Center.

For three days, several hundred viewers followed the Klasmann-Deilmann Innovation Summit on screen, with up to 200 guests tuned in to the individual sessions. External and internal experts discussed the situation of horticulture in Germany, Europe and the world and ventured a look into the future of the industry.

The talks focused on the secure supply of raw materials for substrate production. The initiative launched by the German government to reduce the use of peat in growing media could have a Europe-wide impact on the security of supply for healthy food. And so time and again the discussions returned to the question of whether renewable feedstocks are available in sufficient quantities and to what extent they can replace peat in terms of quality. The experts’ answers were nuanced, as large quantities of well-established raw materials have already been used for years. In view of the growth of the industry and the still unique properties of peat, all speakers nevertheless agreed that commercial horticulture will not be able to do without this raw material for the time being.

The reason for the event was the International Plant Fair (IPM) 2021, which was cancelled due to corona. The Innovation Summit provided a virtual platform to nevertheless give customers, sales partners, associations and many other interested parties an insight into the latest developments in the industry at the start of the season. In this context, Klasmann-Deilmann also provided information about its own new products. The focus was on the Growcoon cultivation system, the Log&Solve internet platform and a range of new substrate mixtures with a higher proportion of alternative raw materials.

Managing Director Moritz Böcking also announced that Klasmann-Deilmann is expanding its own production capacities and will henceforth also manufacture substrates in China, Japan, Australia and southern France. Only a few days ago, moreover, the construction of a substrate factory in the port of Papenburg from 2025 had been announced.

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Beßler, head of the Horticulture Division at the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture (LWK), presented his view of the opportunities and challenges of peat reduction and encouraged “not to think of limits right at the start of a journey.”

Dr. Hans-Joachim Brinkjans, deputy secretary general at the Central Horticultural Association (ZVG) referred, among other things, to the challenging situation in commercial horticulture, which is not only made more difficult by the Corona crisis, but is also characterized at the same time by CO2 tax, the discussion about peat reduction, increasing restrictions in plant protection, and rising cost and competitive pressure. He called for horticultural companies, suppliers such as the substrate industry, associations such as the ZVG and politicians to work even more closely together.

Prof. Dr. Brian Jackson from the Horticultural Substrates Laboratory at North Carolina State University, USA, gave an impressive insight into the details of his research projects on wood fibres and how they can be processed to get as close as possible to a genuine peat substitute.

Dr. Jean-Charles Michel, associated professor in growing media and soil physics at L’Institut Agro/Agrocampus Ouest in France, reported on his scientific activities in the field of substrates and made it clear that in the end “everything is a question of raw materials” and that new solutions must therefore continue to be researched at full speed.

Renke zur Mühlen, who has run a renowned nursery in northwestern Germany for decades, credited the Corona pandemic with the welcome development that horticulture is being given a whole new appreciation and that “our plants have been ennobled by the crisis.”

Renee Snijders, co-founder of the international NGO Eatthis from Costa Rica, explored the question of how to feed humanity without further harming the world and climate. In her keynote speech, she emphasized the importance of good and healthy food and showed the contribution that horticulture and the substrate industry make there. “We need to rethink our behavior and change the way we grow fruit and vegetables so that we can supply everyone with good food in the future. Horticulture has an important role to play in this.”

Klasmann-Deilmann’s dialog partners were Managing Directors Moritz Böcking and Bernd Wehming, as well as Jack van Batenburg (International Sales Coir), Franziska Craayvanger (Project Manager Growcoon), Bert Desmet (Managing Director Sales Asia Pacific), Kazimieras Kaminskas (Managing Director Production Lithuania), Dr. Sebastian Kipp (Head of R&D), Hermann Konnemann (R&D), Dr. Horst Kupschus (Managing Director Sales Europe), Carmen Mecklenburg (Head of Corporate Marketing), Michael Perschl (Managing Director Production Germany), Jens Thien (IT) and Co-Anne van Waaij (Sales Benelux).

“The Innovation Summit was a complete success,” sums up Moritz Böcking. “We brought together proven experts from all over the world with our specialists and offered groundbreaking discussion forums. Customers, partners and many other participants from the commercial horticulture sector were given an in-depth look at the present and future of the industry. We will continue to advance the international exchange virtually. At the same time, we all very much hope that we will soon be able to visit our customers and partners again in person.”