Humintech: the road to better soil

The Chinese have tried it, the Americans came with sacks of money. But this young enterprise, Humintech, is not up for sale. Quite the contrary – the two shareholders, Müfit Tarhan and Aydogan Cengiz, are far too enthusiastic about their mission, which is to make a real contribution to improving arable land worldwide. Even if the conventional large-scale fertiliser companies did not take this minor outsider seriously at first, there has been a steady increase in the interest shown at the development of this biotech enterprise based in Grevenbroich. The movers and shakers at Humintech see conventional chemical fertilisers as a dead-end because the soil is constantly having salts added to it. At some point after 150 years of fertilisation in this way the soil will have become so salty that it can no longer be used for agricultural purposes. Humintech provides the alternative: a soil conditioner extracted from brown coal, or lignite, in particular from the upper layers that have already become oxidised. Over a period of 20 to 30 million years, trees in the primaeval forests close to what is now Cologne degenerated into brown coal. Organic waste and bacteria have produced highly effective humic acid that can be returned to the soil to promote fertility and boost plant growth. The humus balance is falling, in particular in arable land in the climate belt that covers India across to the Mediterranean and round to California. Applying soil conditioners from Humintech can optimise that balance sustainably. Humic acid in the soil acts as a "police force" to prevent heavy metals sinking and passing into the groundwater. It keeps carbon in the soil and helps to counteract the problem of nitrates. Products made from brown coal by Humintech act as bonding agents for manure slurry. The innovation exists and now the product and market just have to be brought together. Converting brown coal into petrol by refining it is far too expensive and burning it is a waste. Using it for agriculture still counts as a new discovery for many. Using brown coal for dyes – Van Dyke brown and Cologne earth are just two famous ones – has been known for a long time. While brown coal has fallen into disrepute today as a climate killer, if used as a soil conditioner it could, indeed, become a climate rescuer and cause an about-turn in ecological thinking: the problem is not the brown coal itself, but the way it is used.
Müfit Tarhan and Aydogan Cengiz owe their ownership of the Humintech enterprise to Germany's one-time Federal Economy Minister and Head of Government in North Rhine-Westphalia, Wolfgang Clement. It was he who pointed them in the direction of Wesko GmbH & Co KG, a subsidiary of Rheinbraun in Frechen, that was up for sale and which they then acquired for a symbolic price in 1999. They have since invested millions of euros in modernising the enterprise. In 2001 they renamed the company Humintech, and in 2013 they relocated it from Düsseldorf-Heerdt to Grevenbroich. The new owners were no strangers to the uses of this product. In Anatolia, when they were attempting to grow vines for wine to rejuvenate the ancient wine-producing culture of the Hittites, they needed a soil conditioner and ended up buying this from Rheinbraun.
Today, they are located in Grevenbroich, immediately adjacent to the access routes to the Garzweiler open-cast mine, and supply 67 countries – and in the near future, the product will also be available in German DIY shops and garden centres. Today, the company, that has grown steadily in the last years, employs a staff of 40 who speak ten languages and are in contact with customers all over the world.  "Manager Magazin" has frequently listed Humintech among the top 100 enterprises in Germany. Berthold Stern, Head of R & D at Humintech, envisages considerable opportunities for further expansion. Climate change offers opportunities for the product because it is a sustainable alternative to conventional, more problematic methods.
Humintech supplies not only soil conditioner but also substances for adding to animal fodder. The substances have been approved by the EU since 2014. Humintech products for animals bind toxic substances in the digestive tract and remove mycotoxins. In fish farming, humic substances contribute to natural water states.
Humintech GmbH
Am Pösenberg 9-13
41517 Grevenbroich
Tel. +49 2181 706760
Fax +49 2181 7067622
Date: March 2018