Andreas Kretzschmar

 

 

Andreas Kretzschmar - from Crop Protection to Wood Preservation

Roots

Born in the year 1966, my life started in a little hospital close to Bonn, the interim capital of Germany before it was moved back to Berlin again. Two years later my father found a new position in Pforzheim (globally known as the gold town), at the northern end of the Black Forest and we all moved down to south-west Germany, a preferred place to live in Germany. Nowadays I live with my family in Freiburg, the center of the Black Forest, very close to Switzerland and France. For about 20 years, I have worked for various companies out of my home office and therefore was already used to it, even under recent conditions.

School, hobbies, life before University, family life

I finished school (German Gymnasium comparable to High School graduate) at the age of 20 in 1986. At that time it was mandatory to join the German armed forces or if you disagree, to do civil services. It was my decision to join an organization founded by handicapped people, giving them support for their daily belongings and in general making their life easier, instead of wasting my life in the German armed forces. For sure it wasn´t the easiest way of living for the next 20 months but it was a very fruitful experience to see how different the sense of live can be for individuals.

Luckily, I was able to spend a lot of my time in the countryside during my childhood and young days. My friends and I had not enough money to join all the clubs and discotheques. We took our bicycles and met in cottages or just somewhere in the countryside. You can imagine that we had a nice time and great parties too.

From the beginning, with my parent family and later during the young days, travelling was the most important beside education at school and so on. I made bicycle tours all around central Europe. Beside that, I spend my “free time” gaining some pocket money with a number of jobs like for example delivering newspapers, do garden work for the neighbors or selling old stuff at flea markets.

Beside skiing and cycling, I practiced no other sports or never learnt playing a musical instrument (just listening) but being only 10 years old, I learnt cooking from my mother. Every lunchtime I went home from school (school always stopped at 1 pm, no school in the afternoon) and started preparing lunch for the family. My parents and my younger brother arrived a little later during lunch break. All of them hungry and keen on getting something tasty and warm. I forgot to say that my parents owned a shop for textiles and had a lot of work.

At the age of 22, it was time to think about the future and if lazy hanging around could finally secure a simple life – it couldn´t. Nevertheless not knowing what kind of profession to learn (may be working as a cook) or what to study at University, I moved for good reasons (girl friend) from Pforzheim to Freiburg (for the first time) and lived in a shared apartment with some other guys being at the University. I was willing to start studying Biology but wasn´t able to get a place at the university. You must know that studying in Germany is free of charge but places are not endless and you often have to wait years for a place at your preferred university or you change and forget about your dreams. The only thing is, that you have to have enough money for an apartment and anything else you need to maintain your life.

Supported by friends in Freiburg, I found a job on a farm close by. Luckily, it was a winemaker but we grow some vegetables too like for example Asparagus and Rhubarb. That was the initial starting point for me to be completely passionate about farming and growing plants. The ideal combination of enjoying food and wine, preparing the meals and to see how and why plants and animals are growing but much more about how to influence all this.

University

In fall 1989, after about one year on the farm, I began at the University of Hohenheim (Stuttgart) to study agriculture. It was the year of the fall of the wall in Berlin, something so big and impossible to believe. I finally spend 10 years at the University including my PhD, finding my wife Martina and arrival of our first daughter Nora in 1996. My wife studied Biology with a focus on agriculture. I guess you can imagine we have a lot to discuss but to enjoy too.

During the last 3 years at the University, I already found two friends, both from small farms, located in the same region close to Baden-Baden. We dreamed about an agricultural cooperative producing organic food. We already had our own booth at two different farmers markets, selling three days per week vegetables and fruits. Beside that, we made about 25.000 liters of apple juice from 300 organic managed apple trees, growing in a special natural reservation area. Luckily, my wife had a good job at the University because beside a lot of work, we never had more to share amongst us three than about 5 Euro / working hour /person. It was a great time but no model for the future. Therefore, I changed my mind and looked for a job with better career opportunities.

Career

I left University without having finished my PhD and was hired from a leading agricultural cooperative in the region. It is a cooperative, selling everything farmers need to do their work. In the turnaround we bought all the crops the famers produced – sun flower, all kind of cereals, corn and so on. I worked as a manager for a local warehouse, owned by this cooperative. Giving you a feeling what that means – selling about 5000 MT different fertilizers/a, beside other products and buying roughly 40.000 MT of cereals/a. During the main harvest season we worked in one case about 55 hours in three days – something you will never forget.

Finally, after about two years in the warehouse, I finished in parallel my PhD in February 2002. I was part of a bigger scientific work group evaluating the release of climate relevant gases from farmlands. My part of the project was a complete CO2 cycle calculation on grass lands used for dairy cattle. Figures we calculated back in year 2000 are used today to monitor the CO2 balance and sales of CO2 equivalents between different countries.

Looking back to these busy days, it was a wonder that our second daughter Judith was born in Feb 2000 and made our family complete.

Back in September 2002 I was hired by Spiess Urania, for a position as local advisor for farmers selling the Spiess Urania crop preservation portfolio for Southwest Germany. We arranged many field tests and tried to optimize the yield in the different regions. It was a great time and especially fascinating to learn a lot about each corner in your region. I enjoyed a lot to deal with farmers - people being able to sell you a dead horse as a racehorse.

Nevertheless, one day the general manager of Spiess Urania called me in the car whilst driving and asked if I could imagine doing something different than talking to farmers. He suggested changing to a new position in Spiess Urania, taking care about the copper product portfolio for wood, as key account manager for Europe. The new position was created to implement all the changes due to the new Biocide Product Directive of the EU. He was aware that the BPD creates some challenges for users and manufacturers and dedicated people have to care about it. I said yes and short time after that I got internal trainings about treatment of wood with copper based systems, something I didn´t know before, only from treated poles for apple trees or grapes. The biggest challenge for me was speaking English right away. I wasn´t used to that and honestly not very good in speaking English at school. Meanwhile I enjoy a lot being in an international business environment and to speak a language (more or less), which can be understood globally. The demand is still to listen carefully because we think in our local language and whilst speaking English, the outcome can be different from what you wanted to say.

After being with Spiess Urania for in total 4 years, Lonza knocked at my door searching for a key account manager WOOD EMEA, located in Basel Switzerland. Being close to Freiburg it was for the whole family a nice opportunity to move back to Freiburg, a place we like a lot. Working for Lonza was being a part of international business all day. Travelling around the world for internal meetings and coming to Allendale in New Jersey quite often for technical meetings was a gift doing this job. For the first time I joint IRG meetings (Istanbul) and met many more specialists for wood preservation. Since that time, I try to join all IRG meetings taking place in Europe. There is still no better platform comparable to IRG for anything new about wood preservation.

One day after a re-organization, I was promoted to the position Regional Marketing Director Materials Protection EMEA. A lot more work and not easy to do. For the first time I felt it was a burden and not a pleasure. Due to further reorganization, I agreed to change again and left Lonza in spring 2011 but was right away hired by Troy in Germany for the position Technical Marketing Manager Wood Europe. This is what I am doing today with great pleasure. I guess not all of you know what I am doing,just from the job title and believe me it took me a while to understand it too. In Troy it is primarily taking care about everything in our European wood business. That´s what I like, being in the center of a network. Internally everybody calls me in case of wood related questions, I support and join the sales team during customer visits, care about the product portfolio, explain technical aspects, be the partner for the regulatory team as well as for the management board. I work closely with the R&D team, have an eye on new trends, markets and pricing. I try to understand news from the BPR and recently the European Green Deal and translate it into normal language, having a base for further decisions. Meanwhile I have one more focus and that is everything around sustainability, due to the fact that wood preservatives are well ahead all other product types under BPR (EU Biocide Product Regulation) and every decision needs to consider CO2 or Green Deal (recently agreed on EU level with huge impact on all industries) effects too.

My concern is that the quality of treated wood will not be the same anymore due to BPR and other restrictions in Europe. I am 100 % convinced, that chemically treated wood is a sustainable choice but fear that the society wants to do some experiments without chemicals in the future. IRG and similar organizations are more than ever needed to give scientific background to all the coming challenges. It is furthermore an organization where different generations can share their thoughts and concern and make plans for the future.

Private life today

In my private life, I can find time for traveling as well, my wife likes it too, according to her it could be more often. Being at home, I am still many hours in the kitchen, cooking for my family, parents and friends or stay in the garden, where we can grow a lot of our vegetables and fruits. Last year, back to the roots, we bought a little vineyard, planted new grapes and have the target to enjoy our own wine when I celebrate my 60th birtday.

Our daughters stepped into the same agricultural trap. Our older daughter finished her masters in agriculture already and her sister is ready with her bachelor. She goes on with the Master study now. We are very proud about it.

Don´t hesitate in case you want to get in touch with me. I would appreciate some feedback from you and as I said before I enjoy a lot having international contacts. I keep fingers crossed we soon can physically meet again during IRG meetings.

 

 

This bio was written for the August 2021 IRG newsletter.