Professor Bernard Slippers, Director of FABI, recently visited KWS at their headquarters in Einbeck, Germany. The visit was hosted by Dr Viktor Korzun, Global Lead Scientific Affairs, and Prof. Kerstin Krüger, the lead of Phytopathology. Prof. Krüger was based at the University of Pretoria, and linked to FABI for many years, prior to moving to Germany in 2021 to take up her current position. She remains an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria and FABI, and continues to be involved in projects and student supervision.

During recent project discussions, and following the KWS’ appointment of Prof. Krüger as KWS R&D Ambassador for the University of Pretoria, it was realized that Prof. Slippers would be a little more than an hour away by train during a visit to the Technical University Braunschweig. It was an opportunity not to be missed!

Prof. Slippers says that his hosts were very hospitable during his visit. This started with informal engagement and a stimulating tour of a part of Einbeck, with its beautiful architecture and rich culture that stretches back centuries. Einbeck has been the home of KWS since 1945 and today is deeply linked to this major international seed company.

The visit to the KWS headquarters started with an overview of the history of the company and insights into the development of its current market and research focus, starting from its roots 160 years ago in Sugar beet breeding. Today KWS is among the five biggest plant breeding companies globally, and including frontier seed technology and genetics in all the major crops. The company is deeply committed to research and innovation, and this was also evident during the tour of its exceptional research and greenhouse facilities, which would be the envy of any plant researcher globally. The people-centered culture of the company was tangible through the walkabout, and the interactions with and amongst staff.  The experience was well captured by the company vision portrayed on one of the walls: “Make yourself grow”

Prof. Slippers had the opportunity to present a talk on ‘Public-private partnerships for plant health and biosecurity: The FABI example’, which included an overview of the FABI, Innovation Africa @UP and University of Pretoria history, structures and operations, as well as of key research areas. The talk was well attended by participants on site, as well as by KWS employees who joined online from Germany and offices in other parts of the world. The talk was followed by discussions on future research directions and potential areas of collaboration.

Prof. Slippers says that he was deeply impressed by the visit, including the company culture, the commitment to frontier research on a broad range of topics and the impact on global agriculture. He will visit Germany again in June and expresses his excited to follow up on this initial contact and discussions.