SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz is paving the way into virtual worlds and providing support during the coronavirus crisis
SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz GmbH (SKW Piesteritz) is breaking new ground in the agricultural sector. During the coronavirus pandemic, the Saxony-Anhalt-based company has moved its events online and has been discussing agricultural problems and innovations in webinars and at a virtual agricultural field day. As Germany’s largest manufacturer of urea and ammonia, SKW Piesteritz has also been championing Lutherstadt Wittenberg, the town where it is based, by giving financial support to the region’s retailers and traders.
For the past 25 years, farmers, retailers and consultants, as well as business, scientific and political representatives, have been coming together to meet at testing sites in Cunnersdorf, near Leipzig. The 170-hectare agricultural site for applied research belongs to SKW Piesteritz and is a meeting point for academic exchange that attracts international guests, students and practitioners alike. The coronavirus has put a stop to large gatherings, but SKW Piesteritz wasn’t going to let this hold it back. It organized its first virtual agricultural field day, the first of its kind for the agricultural sector, attracting many visitors to the digital soil and animated fields.
“Agriculture must continue even in times of crisis.”
There was a great deal on offer: a field tour, conversations with exhibitors and discussions on trends in fertilization, crop protection, seeds and machinery. After a quick registration, guests could choose their options and “beam” themselves down to join the field day as an avatar and get involved in the virtual networking. Visitors could also tune in to live specialist presentations and ideas from agricultural bloggers. “In spring, lots of things changed dramatically as a result of the coronavirus. Familiar routines, behavioral patterns and seemingly fixed attitudes were now being questioned,” says Rüdiger Geserick, Chairman of the Board of Management at SKW Piesteritz. “However, we didn’t see that as a reason to abandon contact with our customers; in fact, we saw it as an incentive to break new ground.” The discussions and presentations of fertilizer varieties in 3D animation were just two of the many opportunities on offer at the virtual field day. SKW Piesteritz is also offering another opportunity in the form of newly created webinars in which speakers address questions such as “Green Deal 2030 – Can Agriculture Save the Climate?” and “Harvest 2020 – What Does The Optimum Marketing Strategy Look Like?”. The digital “Barn Discussion” held at the end of June was centered around looking at the fields of the future and innovative agriculture. “Despite the drastic consequences of the coronavirus crisis for the economy and society, agricultural field work must continue,” says Geserick. Preparation for further webinars is already underway, and demand is growing. “We are seeing that this kind of format is highly sought after,” Geserick explains. Bringing people together to address topical issues in agriculture is nothing new for the company – and neither is seeing the bigger picture.
Support for fundamental research
As Germany’s largest manufacturer of urea and ammonia, SKW Piesteritz has its own research and development department and invests in new plants and modern logistics sectors. Its portfolio includes a wide range of specialties, and it is one of Europe’s largest agrochemical manufacturers of nitrogen fertilizers. The company supplies industry with commodity chemicals such as ammonia, urea and nitric acid. Piesteritz has been a traditional location for the chemical industry since 1915, meaning SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz GmbH, which has existed in its current form since 1993, can draw on over 100 years of experience. The long-standing company employs more than 850 staff at its locations in Piesteritz, Wittenberg, and in Cunnersdorf, near Leipzig. Over 60 of these employees work in chemical research, applied agricultural research and analytics, developing new products and collaborating with international firms, institutes and laboratories. Together with the Agrochemical Institute Piesteritz (AIP), an affiliated institute of Martin Luther University, SKW Piesteritz is supporting fundamental research. Until now, this research has primarily been into crop cultivation and fertilization but has recently included food chemistry and nutritional science.
Support for the community from the “Large Helps Small” campaign
In Piesteritz, seeing the bigger picture also means going the extra mile. “We want to make sure that Wittenberg is a location for industry for years to come,” says Geserick. In the current situation, that means supporting retailers, traders and restaurateurs who are receiving either no or insufficient government support and have fallen on hard times because of the consequences of the pandemic. The “Large Helps Small” campaign provides them with financial support from SKW Piesteritz. The company has previously helped sports clubs and cultural associations, the community foundation and schools to buy face masks. “We take our responsibility for this region very seriously,” says Geserick. “That means helping out in times of crisis and looking for new ways forward.” Some of these ways forward have led Piesteritz into the virtual world and back again.
Author: Manuela Bock/IMG Saxony-Anhalt
SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz GmbH
Möllensdorfer Strasse 13
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany
Tel.: +49 34 91/68-0
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