The Growcoon: An award winning invention
Added on 14 September 2022
In this interview we talk to innovation manager Sjors Beijer (Klasmann Deilmann) and partner manager Patrick Alferink (Maan Biobased Products) on their award-winning innovation. But we also dive into their companies' histories and vision on the future of the horticulture sector.
Sjors, Klasmann-Deilmann is a leading supplier of growing media/substrate for professional horticulture. Can you tell us a bit about your own history at the company and what you do as innovation manager?
Klasmann-Deilmann is indeed a renowned name in horticulture, a major international substrate supplier (we call it growing media). Looking at the nature of our business, we want to become more resource use efficient when it comes to the production and sales of peat based substrates. That's why Klasmann-Deilmann set up an innovation team already 6 years ago, and that's how I came to work at the company as innovation manager, now heading a growing team of 7 colleagues.
This innovation team was launched to specifically look at alternative business models, in different directions than our traditional model that is about peat extraction for growing media. How can we diversify our business model and portfolio of services and product towards our clients and reduce or even minimize the use of peat? And that's how we came in touch with Maan Biobased Products.
Indeed, and this cooperation focused on the Growcoon, right?
Yes, the Growcoon is the result of many years of innovation, development and testing. The first steps were already made back in 2008. Some six years ago, when Klasmann-Deilmann and Maan Biobased Products joined forces, we were able to actually make the Growcoon a success.
Nowadays, we're able to produce 500 million Growcoons a year, moving towards 1 billion in 2025!
Patrick, you're partner manager at Maan Biobased Products, part of the Maan Group. Can you give a brief intro on Maan?
Maan Group can be best described as a company of inventors and innovators. The Group consists of 3 divisions: Maan Engineering, Maan Special Products and Maan Biobased Products. Together, we possess the skills, the intellect and the equipment to translate innovative ideas into sustainable, marketable products.
I am partner manager at Maan Biobased products and we focus on the manufacturing of biodegradable products for the horticultural sector. Growcoon is our greatest success story and has attracted quite some attention, also outside the horticultural domain. This year we were awarded the prestigious business award 'Koning Willem l Award' for SME's, a great honor and reward for our efforts.
So, what exactly is the Growcoon?
The Growcoon is a small knitted net, made of biopolymers (fully biodegradable materials). This net can be put around young plant plugs and allows the plant to grow and develop healthy roots and makes it easily transplantable. These biopolymers can be compared to the material that is used for medical stitches. Stitches degrade in the human body without leaving any trace or harmful materials, and the Growcoon does the same in the soil.
How do you both see the future of the Growcoon developing? What are your goals and vision regarding this innovative product? And what's next when it comes to your collaboration?
Patrick: 'We have already developed different sizes and compositions of the Growcoon. Next step is to make a Growcoon tailored for tissue culture propagation in laboratories and larger sizes to replace plastic pots (when producing herbs in pots for example).'
Sjors: 'Building on the success of the Growcoon, we're also working together to develop a substrate made of biodegradable polymers to be used in vertical farms and hydroponics, but also for young plants. The goal is to launch this new product, ready for commercial applications, at the international horticultural fair GreenTech in Amsterdam in June 2023.'
Patrick: 'Yes, and at the same time, the technical division of Maan Group is working on the machines that actually make this material and our vision is that in this way we can bring growing media production right to the grower's greenhouse. We believe that in the future growers can manufacture their growing media in house and exactly according to their needs. Compare it if you like with your own 3-D printer for growing media. In this way we can save on waste, but also on costs (and CO2 emissions) for transport, distribution and storage, making everything way more efficient and resilient.'
Sjors: 'If this becomes a reality it would be a really disruptive innovation that changes the horticultural sector, we believe!'
Photo: Patrick Alferink on left, Sjors Beijer on the right. Courtesy of EatThis