Basil, lavender, bay leaf, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, hyssop. At the Bioland KräuterGut in Kraftshof near Nuremberg, it‘s flourishing with a wonderful scent. Wherever you look, potted herbs line up and production manager Tanja Dworschak enjoys this look. Tanja Dworschak flits back out of the nursery, returns to the office, and then energetically and humorously talks about how she manages the award-winning
KräuterGut. It turns out that family tradition, organic farming, and the most modern production methods go hand in hand.
Together with her team, Tanja Dworschak produces around 250 wild, medicinal, and aromatic herbs all year round. As well as the variety of the range, the numbers are quite impressive. Around 5 million herb pots are sold every year. The organic production takes place on 13,000 square metres of production area in the greenhouse, in a 14,000 square metre coldstore, and on around 2.5 hectares of open land. Her customers include major customers from the food retail sector in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Consumers use the off-the-yard sales and above all shipping from the Internet.
Ms Dworschak, your family business has been around since 1928 and you are leading it into the fifth generation. Your grandfather‘s pioneering spirit focussed on the production of potted herbs in 1988. The economic breakthrough came a few years later when you converted to a biological mode of production. Since 1994, you have been producing exclusively according to the guidelines of organic farming. You began to specialise in pure herbal production from the beginning of the 90s.
Today, you and your team are cultivating herbs on a grand scale. What is your key to business success?
Our aim is to work for the benefit of people and nature. That is our motto and the reason for our organic focus. When working with our many different herbs, we focus on the benefits for both humans and nature. That‘s why it is also very important to me that our staff work well as a team. Twenty percent of our employees are people with disabilities who work in our company. It means a lot to me that we practice cooperation and do not just talk about it.
Tanja Dworschak in conversation
In your company, you also focus on environmentally friendly and resource-saving technology. In 2013, you won the energy award with a prototype for the double-decker method. The two-storey greenhouse is Europe‘s first production plant of this kind for potted herbs. How did you come up with this idea?
The double-decker approach was my father‘s idea. He is the innovative mind in the business and when it comes to technology, he‘s the one in charge. He devised and planned the double-decker system himself. The main reason was that we wanted to cut energy costs. Another reason was that the surfaces here in Nuremberg-Kraftshof are very scarce and so the nearest way to go was up. My father made the prototype and built a production area of 7,000 m² with 13,000 m² of production area. This new greenhouse facility was awarded in 2016 as the best concept for environment and sustainability.
Would you please briefly explain the pot production with this approach. What is special about this greenhouse? What are its benefits?
Production is computer controlled and very energy efficient. Energy consumption is halved. Depending on the variety, the temperature, the lighting, and the irrigation is set for the respective needs of the plants, including for the beneficial organisms in them.
In nurseries, the departments are often very spacious. Our new system has the advantage that the work processes are short and easy to manage. Our employees can thus implement their work well. This also facilitates the care for our employees with disabilities. In addition, we create even better qualities in the herbs, because the larger airspace is good for them.
You also conserve resources during irrigation. How do you proceed?
The entire roof surface water is collected and used centrally. We have a closed loop system for this that works very well. We collect rainwater and irrigation water. Our own filter systems filter the water which is used to irrigate the herbs until the last drop.
In the old systems, we still have the ebb-tide system for the culture tables, while with the new double-decker operation we use flow tables. The plants are watered regularly and the effluent water is completely returned to reservoir. We use water-saving centre pivot sprinklers for the outdoor areas.
For over a year, you have been using the Multikraft system in your company. How do you use Multikraft products in pot production?
We work with the standard recipes from Multikraft and convert them according to the needs of our company. With master gardener Günther Soukup, we have a very good advisor on hand for the use of Multikraft products, who is available in person and on the phone with good tips when we have questions. We generally work with the Multikraft system in three steps. First, the young plants are generously watered with a welcome cocktail so that the pots are really well-moistened. This cocktail strengthens the plants and their defences from the beginning and is made up of
EM Active and Terrafert Soil. Second, BB Soil and Terrafert Soil are consistently involved in the casting process and ensure a good environment in the substrate. Third, we use a blending process of BB Foliar, Terrafert Foliar, MK 5, FPE and EM Ceramic Powder at least once a week to increase leaf strength throughout the operation.
What are the benefits of the Multikraft system?
Plant health is always important. Generally, since using Multikraft products all our herbs have had a more vital radiance. In some types of mint, for example, you notice that the leaves are larger and grow more vigorously.
One time we were quite surprised because mildew had suddenly appeared. I consulted with Günther Soukup and we found out that for two weeks a component of the Multikraft products had not been regularly used. We learn from our mistakes. That‘s how we saw that it works. Regular and consistent application is absolutely important. One principle in biological work is also proactive, preventive production. Mildew in the herbs is then no longer an issue.
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