Innovation is in the air

Feb 13

GEA supports farmers in industry transformation
The atmosphere in Europe has rarely felt so palpably rural as it has during the first months of 2024: With their tractors and manure tankers in tow, protesting farmers in the capitals of Berlin, Paris and Brussels and elsewhere, are drawing attention to the fact that restructuring the world’s food system is a societal task and cannot be borne by farmers alone. Against this backdrop, GEA joined a panel of experts recently in Berlin to discuss practical solutions for enabling more sustainable agricultural.


The current challenges facing agriculture are tremendous: the entire industry is in the midst of a far-reaching transformation towards greater sustainability and animal welfare. At the same time, many farmers are under increasing economic pressure. The panel, made up of experts from government, farming, academia and business, discussed key topics such as the prerequisites for shifting agriculture towards more organic farming practices, climate adaption strategies, improving soil health, as well as reducing the level of bureaucracy and regulation faced by producers.

With regard to fertilizer and climate impact, Peter Lauwers, CEO of GEA Farm Technologies, raised awareness about the urgent need for action. The good news, he explained, is that innovative and proven technologies can make agriculture significantly more environmentally and climate-friendly – right now – if legal and financial conditions are in place to support the uptake of these solutions by farmers.

"To meet the increasing food demand of the world's growing population in a more sustainable and resource-efficient way, we need to work together: agriculture, politicians, researchers, businesses, media and consumers."

– Peter Lauwers

CEO GEA Farm Technologies

Reducing CO2 emissions from agriculture worldwide

Agriculture not only suffers from climate change, but also contributes to it. At present agricultural emissions account for about 12 percent of global CO2 emissions. For some perspective, the industries contributing the most greenhouse gas emissions globally are the energy (38%) and mobility (21%) sectors.

When it comes to farming, it is livestock rearing – particularly cattle farming with its methane emissions – which is the biggest contributor to agricultural emissions. The proportion accounted for by cattle farming varies from country to country. In Germany, emissions from cattle farming account for just 4 percent of the country’s emissions, which is a positive benchmark for the agricultural industry globally. When looked at in more detail, there are clear insights about how to reduce these emissions. Livestock management methods, animal health, milk quantity per cow and the efficient use of by-products such as manure as a natural fertilizer – all impact emissions. Analyses prove that efficient management reduces the climate impact of cattle- and dairy farming. Technological progress in the barn alone already contributes significantly to increases in efficiency.

Modern dairy solutions support more climate-friendly farming

GEA has supported the dairy farmers for decades with automated milking and feeding systems and digital herd management solutions. These solutions ensure more sustainable and higher quality milk production. Combined, these modern tools save time, resources, energy and improve animal welfare by reducing the prevalence of mastitis and claw infections. This drastically reduces the need for medicine and antibiotics in dairy farming. More climate-friendly farming is not possible without these innovations.

Manure management an important lever

The panel discussed the risk of farmers losing important nutrients like nitrogen for their fields and crops if fertilizers and manure are further legislated and restricted. Such a policy has wide ranging effects on profitability, crop yield and the environment. In response, Lauwers highlighted the potential of better manure management to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture by up to 30 percent using new technologies.

"Manure management has always been a key aspect of livestock management. Today, before manure ends up as fertilizer on the field, farmers can substantially lower its climate impact thanks to the help of very innovative technology."

– Peter Lauwers

CEO GEA Farm Technologies

A prime example is GEA’s Manure Enricher, a game-changing technology for manure management and fertilization. It works by adding nitrogen from the air into the manure slurry, which increases the nitrogen content. The process prevents the loss of ammonia and largely eliminates methane emissions. This is not only good for the climate, but also for the neighborhood, as the treated manure no longer smells. The result is an organic nitrogen enriched organic fertilizer (NEO) which enables up to 40 percent higher crop yields.

With NEO fertilizer, farmers are less reliant on chemical fertilizers. For organic farmers the ROI for this solution is particularly attractive, given the high cost of organic additives which are increasingly difficult to source.

Climate-friendly solutions need support

Innovative solutions like the Manure Enricher can make an important contribution to the EU's farm-to-fork strategy. However, while efficient, sustainable and more effective nitrogen fertilization is greatly needed, progress is hampered due to unclear definitions and narrow fertilizer limits set at the EU level. This situation hinders the potential positive impact of innovations that are already on the market, or which sadly may never come on the market due to the current legislative and regulatory milieu.

Lauwers therefore calls for a practical revision of legislation in Germany and at the EU level: "Laws need to be adapted more quickly to take into account new and innovative technologies. If this is not done, we will not be able to meet the changing demands on our food system." While there is an urgent need for action on all sides, the technological revolution needs support, including financial resources for farmers and research institutions. While there is a lot of good progress being made by and for farmers, we need to keep it going.

GEA transformation agricultural pannel


“Around the table for more sustainable agriculture,” Berlin, Feb. 1, 2024

Dr. Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein: agronomist, farmer, member of the German federal government's Bioeconomy Council, board member of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture

Bernhard Osterburg: agricultural- engineer & economist, head of the Soil & Climate Unit at Thünen Institute/ Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forests & Fisheries

Carina Konrad: member of the German federal government, agricultural engineer, farmer

Peter Lauwers, CEO GEA Farm Technologies

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