Meeting Sjors Beijer of Klasmann-Deilmann

Meeting Sjors Beijer of Klasmann-Deilmann

Klasmann-Deilmann is the leading corporate group in the international substrate industry. They have a close relationship with Wageningen, and decided this year to sponsor our Challenge. Sjors Beijer, innovation manager, is very enthusiastic about the ‘Design the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse’ challenge: “As a partner and prize sponsor, we hope to be surprised by the participants’ innovative and sustainable substrate solutions, and we want to connect with them. By innovating existing ways of thinking, ground-breaking ideas often come from different disciplines and bright minds. The challenge is a unique opportunity for students with an affinity for growing plants to become a creative entrepreneur and work together in a multidisciplinary team. We’re looking forward to seeing all the ideas being presented in August.”

We’ve been part of the WUR Horticulture unit in Bleiswijk ‘club of 100’ since 2014, so WUR is a logical partner-institute in this field. Over the last two years, we have intensified our by, amongst others,  participating in the annual career days, hiring 3 WUR alumni, starting a partnership with WUR Agri&Food startup incubator StartLife, and, more recently, sponsoring the student challenge. On November 26, 2018, we will host a talk & toast at WUR, where students can learn more about Klasmann-Deilmann and have a personal, informal chat with our employees.

In this way, we can actively engage with young professionals as well as work together with WUR on horticulture research projects and innovation. The WUR has a strong leading position in global horticulture and Life Sciences in general. As we’re an international company with subsidiaries in Europe, the US and Asia, we believe this helps us and the WUR; a win-win situation. Recently, WUR has really invested in courses and research on food cultivation and technology and organic agriculture. These are important domains for Klasmann-Deilmann, as around half of our sales are related to in food cultivation and we have a strong position in organic and bio substrates.

There are a rapidly increasing number of new initiatives in the field of food cultivation. Urban farming; hydroponics, vertical farming, aquaponics, are just a few examples. Each crop has its own cultivation needs, so that translates into specific crop-related cultivation conditions and systems. For example, high wire crops like tomatoes and peppers have different requirements than babyleafs or mushrooms. This then also has to be applied is to the new types of food cultivation systems.

We are now seeing a shift from open field cultivation to more controlled conditions at the moment, for example in soft fruits. This almost always means a shift from mineral soil to substrate cultivation, allowing for higher efficiency in irrigation and fertigation whilst reducing the risks of soil-borne diseases. We expect this to increase in the near future due to increasing production demands, as well as threats such as climate change and decreasing availability of arable land. It highlights the challenges we are facing in our industry: we have to use our resources responsibly whilst ensuring increased food production. There’s still a lot of work to be done!

To answer this challenge, we are currently working with alternative raw materials to reduce our products’ carbon footprint. The backbone of most organic substrates is peat as it has unique water storing properties. By working with alternative materials, we lose some of that capacity, but our smart innovations ensure that we don’t compromise the quality of our substrates. For example, we run our own innovation incubator and R&D department with state-of-the-art testing facilities. By supplying growing media for food crops, we’re very keen on ensuring the food safety of our products; we have to consider risks of pathogens, nematodes and chemical residues in a circular cycle. We see this and other trends as a big challenge: consumers, politics and NGOs are becoming increasingly aware and critical on application of agrochemicals. To answer this, we investigate ways of producing substrates that make crops more resilient, enabling our customers to produce crops with less agrochemicals.

Summing this all up, there is no simple stand-alone solution. Every customer has their own specific needs, so our solution is tailor-made, depending on aspects like the target crop and the technological opportunities available.

We are very enthusiastic about the ‘Design the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse’ challenge As a partner and prize sponsor, we hope to be surprised by the participants’ innovative and sustainable substrate solutions, and we want to connect with them. By innovating existing ways of thinking, ground-breaking ideas often come from different disciplines and bright minds. The challenge is a unique opportunity for students with an affinity for growing plants to become a creative entrepreneur and work together in a multidisciplinary team. We’re looking forward to seeing all the ideas being presented in August.

To get or keep in touch, follow us on LinkedIn and via our webpage www.klasmann-deilmann.com. If any of the participants have technical questions regarding the challenge, horticultural innovations and growing media, please contact Sjors Beijer via LinkedIn or Sjors.beijer@klasmann-deilmann.com. If any student is interested in an internship, thesis or job opportunity, then please don’t hesitate to contact HR Manager Sarah Gründing via sarah.gruending@klasmann-deilmann.com. We’ll be happy to hear from you!