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Tanja Dworschak from Bioland KräuterGut Dworschak-Fleischmann:

"Double-deck production of organic potted herbs is unique and perhaps optimal"

"We've been growing organically since 1994, when we were carving out a niche in the market with our new operation focusing exclusively on potted herbs, and organic on this scale was still quite rare. For this reason, some consider us pioneers in organic farming," says Tanja Dworschak from Bioland KräuterGut Dworschak-Fleischmann in Nuremberg. "After winning the Eat Healthy Award in 2015 in the juices and smoothies category, more vegans started visiting our farm."

"After many conversations about veganism, a topic I had never delved into before, I started thinking about plant fertilizers, which were primarily of animal origin at that time. To produce a genuine product for this evolving dietary focus, we began experimenting with vegan fertilizers. It was quite exciting and often nerve-wracking at the beginning, as it reacts differently and doesn't have a nitrogen depot effect like, for example, horn shavings."

240 varieties
The company produces around 240 varieties of bio-vegan herbs. "The diversity comes from the early days when we were the only ones supplying almost all organic wholesalers nationwide. To optimize freight, we had to offer a large assortment, as the turnover of 'fast movers' like basil, chives, parsley, and other varieties wasn't that high, and every additional box on the pallet lowered the freight cost per pot. Today, trendy varieties like cheese leaf for vegans are being added, and some are almost disappearing, like Stevia, the sweet herb. Whenever my employees or I see something that is either beautiful or delicious, we give it a try," says Dworschak.

This wide selection of herbs needs to be well-thought-out and planned. "For years, we had almost the entire assortment available year-round. Now we have many items only seasonally or upon request. Woodruff at Christmas? No one's interested. We now focus on the herbs our customers want. In the new part of the farm, we've grouped together cultures that have similar cultivation durations and requirements, like basil, Italian herbs, as well as dill and coriander. In the smaller-scale old building, we have separate houses for flat and curly parsley, mint, and our exotics, which we propagate ourselves. This way, we can optimally adjust the temperature or light to the specific conditions and needs without disturbing the other cultures."

Sustainability as a concern of organic farming
Sustainability is also a major focus in the operation, according to Dworschak. "Sustainability has always been a concern of organic farming. Conserving water resources and avoiding soil sealing are fully part of it. Additionally, in the metropolitan area of Nuremberg, Fürth, and Erlangen, industry, commerce, agriculture, residential construction, local recreation, and land compensation are fighting for every square meter," she notes. "It's more likely to win the lottery than to be able to enlarge and round off your operation through land purchase. That's why my father got creative, and in 2010, we conducted the first double-deck trial in a section of the old, 3.20 m high Venlo greenhouse. In 2015, we then built the new building on 7,200 m² with 13,000 m² of production space."

"Let's not kid ourselves: German greenhouse production is energy-intensive," she remarks. "But even when gas prices were still low, we placed great emphasis on good insulation of the exterior shell in the double-deck new building. Indeed, the second production level not only increases cultivation area, but also the vertical thermal utilization is better. The light requirement is also optimally adjusted to the cultivation management: The seedlings generally only need a weak light stimulus at first and move to the upper floor only after the development of the foliage leaves."

Especially now, with summers getting hotter, this pays off. "The delicate seedlings don't need to be shaded additionally, and the pots dry out less quickly there. Under these conditions, our own power plant is used even more sensibly. We have to artificially illuminate for year-round production – especially in the dark season – and have a heating requirement for the heat-loving basil, but we cover this to a large extent and even on cold winter days without additional energy input for the heating boiler, but purely from the waste heat of electricity production."

"The double-deck production, as we have been operating it for bio-potted herbs for almost ten years now, is still quite unique and perhaps optimal in terms of sustainability, efficiency, and organic standards given the conditions. However, we have now gained experience with this production and would possibly plan a greenhouse differently, better, with today's knowledge," says Dworschak. "Still, sustainable investments in the future are always a long-term matter. What was state-of-the-art in terms of sustainability ten to fifteen years ago is almost outdated today. Conversely, other technologies, which might be better from today's perspective, were not mature enough at the time of planning." However, the construction of a logistics hall in front of the building is planned for this year, as they have now reached capacity limits due to the increased production volume in the warehouse.

Staying current
"Reducing peat in the potting substrate remains an important concern for us. We remain experimental and are practical partners in research, assessing the applicability of organic peat substitutes," Dworschak, who is also concerned with the topic of artificial intelligence, states. "I rely heavily on gardening skills and the experiences of my employees, but I also see clear application scenarios for our production in the medium to long term, where we can definitely unlock further efficiency potentials and facilitations for the given operation through algorithms and better digital process monitoring."

"As for the herb offering, I want to stay current," she concludes. "We are open to new trends and are always willing to try new things for our customers."

Images: Bioland KräuterGut

For more information:
Tanja Dworschak
Bioland KräuterGut Dworschak-Fleischmann
Kraftshofer Hauptstraße 265
90427 Nuremberg / Kraftshof
Tel.: 0911 / 93 64 76 -1
Mail: [email protected]

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