From working group to global company
The biologist Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring way back in 1962 in the USA. In it, she warned of the dangers posed by the overuse of synthetic pesticides. While it attracted a huge amount of attention, the actual amount of success it achieved in protecting nature remained low. All the same, in the following decades many young scientists around the world sought biological alternatives to chemical insect control.
In the 1980s, the idea of using insect-pathogenic nematodes (roundworms or eelworms) as biological control agents in plant protection finally gained acceptance. Many universities invested a great deal of effort into seeking ways to produce large quantities of these nematodes, first in Australia and then additionally in the USA and Europe. Through this, a working group at the University of Kiel under the leadership of Dr Ralf-Udo Ehlers succeeded in culturing insect-pathogenic nematodes in a bioreactor.
In the years following that, intensive research was conducted and the new nematode liquid-cultivation technique was further developed. This ultimately led to Prof. Ralf-Udo Ehlers, Dr Arne Peters and Tillmann Frank, who are now the three Managing Directors of the company, founding e-nema GmbH in 1997 to commercialise the results of scientific work and thereby contributing to making plant protection environmentally friendly.
Since its foundation, e-nema GmbH has its headquarters in the northern German town of Schwentinental, which is situated very close to the university city of Kiel. The young company began producing on a laboratory scale in the tiniest of spaces using two small bioreactors and one larger bioreactor with a volume of 500 litres. Today e-nema GmbH is an successful medium-sized company with a variety of different bioreactors with a capacity ranging from 3 to 60,000 litres at its laboratory and production facilities.
Biological plant protection is still a core component of what is now a global company. It not only produces insect-pathogenic nematodes, but also a range of additional biological plant protection agents based on microorganisms. In addition, the company's cutting-edge technology at its production facilities is used to produce agents using biocatalysis, which can be used in a wide variety of areas such as the cosmetics and food industry.
An international team works in the company's laboratories on continually improving processes and products as well as on developing new ideas and solutions for plant protection, aquaculture and in biocatalysis, the 'white' biotechnology. The team at e-nema GmbH is frequently invited to participate in international research and development projects. Through its global collaborations with countless scientific institutes, universities and research companies, e-nema GmbH has now firmly established itself in the cutting-edge biotechnology sector.