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2019-03-11

Interview with Klaus Josef Lutz, CEO of BayWa

1) BayWa has built technically innovative climate-protected greenhouses in the Emirates, thus enabling the cultivation of premium fruit vegetables in the desert region. How do you see the German or European role in the task of ensuring food security for ten billion people in the future?  

From a global perspective, sufficient food is currently being produced, but it does not always arrive where it is needed. A well-functioning agricultural trade is crucial here. Europe is one of the largest wheat exporters in the world and an important supplier to North Africa, for example. Germany produces excellent wheat with a high protein content, which is in high demand in other parts of the world. However, climate changes and extreme weather events can also lead to crop losses in Europe, as the exceptionally dry year of 2018 has shown. Progress in breeding climate-tolerant varieties, technical innovations such as climate greenhouses and digitization in agriculture in general offer the potential to secure food supplies for ten billion people, even under changing conditions. We should strive to cover food supply not only through imports, but also as far as possible "local for local" - both in industrialized countries and explicitly in growth markets. 

2. What has BayWa learned from the applications in the Emirates? Can the experiences also be transferred to the EU?

In climate-protected greenhouses it is basically possible to produce anywhere, in the desert as well as at the North Pole, whereby success depends on certain factors in individual cases, for example which product is to be cultivated. In the Emirates, too, the natural external conditions for agriculture are very demanding. A year-round production of - in this case - premium snack tomatoes is therefore only possible in modern climate greenhouses. We have learned a lot from the point of view of plant cultivation, for example with regard to the optimal supply of plants with nutrients and water while at the same time using resources sparingly. The desire for more "local for local", which was decisive in the Emirates, is also increasing in other countries. On the one hand, in order to become less dependent on food imports, on the other hand, because the demand for regionally and sustainably produced food is increasing, especially in wealthy nations. Our experience with nutrition trends and consumer wishes and requirements is similar to the experience we have in Europe. 

3. You support the Global Food Summit, among other things, in the start-up event. What is your particular interest in the start-ups?  

We gladly support the start-up event of the Global Food Summit because BayWa has always claimed to be a driver of innovation and to make it available to its customers at an early stage. This is true today, in the digital age, just as it was in the 1920s, when BayWa was one of the pioneers in the mechanization of agriculture. The prerequisite for this is to recognize innovations at an early stage, to question one's own business models again and again and, if necessary, to supplement, adapt or develop completely new business models. Start-ups, which are already one step ahead, are very important in this process. BayWa, on the other hand, can accelerate the path of an innovation to market maturity - through its proximity to the customer, its  sales network and the opportunities to quickly evaluate innovative business ideas, for example through practical trials. We have been successfully implementing this with our Agro Innovation Lab for years.