Information on Keynote presenter

Lukas Bertschinger, klb Innovation GmbH, Switzerland

HortResearch4Future – How can we respond to societal demand?

Lukas Bertschinger is the founder and managing director of klb innovation: sustainable innovation – knowledge-based decision-making – impact-oriented research, for strengthening the innovative capacity of businesses and research institutions in the agrifood value chain and life science sector. He holds a doctorate in plant sciences from ETH Zürich (Switzerland), a certificate as innovation manager and a CAS in international policy and advocacy. He has careered as a plant scientist and research manager working for CGIAR centers and further for the Swiss public agrifood sector research with a focus on horticulture and sustainable food value chains. As a research manager he engaged in developing new approaches of public-private partnerships and spin-offs and is serving on boards of national and international research institutions. Actually, he is serving as chair of the scientific advisory council of the research center Laimburg (Italy) and as president of the Müller Thurgau Foundation (Switzerland). He is a long-standing member of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), served as convenor and editor of several ISHS symposia and publishes regularly in ISHS journals.

Bruce Bugbee, Professor of Crop Physiology, Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate, Utah State University, USA

Turning photons into food: On Earth and on Mars

Bruce Bugbee is a professor at Utah State University. He is internationally known for his work with NASA to design food production systems for people living on Mars and has been a frequent speaker at conferences on indoor food production on Earth. He is President of Apogee Instruments, a company that develops unique sensors for agriculture. In 2011 he received the Governors Medal for Science, and in 2016 the Wynne Thorne career research award from Utah State University. He has recorded several videos that summarize the research from his laboratory; search for “bugbee agriculture”. Perhaps his pinnacle achievement is summarizing everything he knows in his TED talk.

Johan Jacobs, CEO of Circular Organics

Insect bioconversion and horticulture: Repairing the future together!

Working as a Belgian diplomat around the world for ten years, Johan Jacobs personally witnessed today’s major global challenge: as the world population continues to grow and consumption patterns remain the same, the need for ever more resources and food increases as do associated waste streams. Unhindered by his Master’s degrees in International Politics and General Economics, Johan founded the cleantech start-up Millibeter™ in 2012. Millibeter™ was acquired by AgriProtein™ in November 2018 and has been subsequently integrated into the Insect Technology Group™ (ITG) under the brand Circular Organics™ alongside Agriprotein and Multicycle as the other two ITG businesses. Circular Organics™ applies cutting edge insect technology on EU-approved agricultural by-products and organic waste. These by-products and organic wastes are processed into protein, oil and soil products for feed, food, and other applications.

Kai Niebert, University of Zurich, Science and Sustainability Education; President of the Environmental Governing Body German Council for Nature Conservation

Science and politics in time of global change?

Georg Petschenka, Chair Applied Entomology, Department of Phyotomedicine, University of Hohenheim, Germany

The insect decline and insect-plant interactions: Perspectives for horticulture

Georg Petschenka studied biology at the Universities of Tübingen and Bayreuth (Germany). In 2010, he received his PhD from the University of Hamburg. After returning from a postdoctoral position at Cornell University (USA) in 2015, he was leading two junior research groups funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, Emmy Noether-Program) and the State of Hesse (LOEWE) at the University of Giessen. Since March 2020 he has the chair of Applied Entomology at the University of Hohenheim. In 2016, he received the Early-Career-Award from the International Society of Chemical Ecology for his work in the field of insect-plant interactions. Georg Petschenka research focuses on insect resistance against host plant toxins and the evolutionary and ecological implications of the underlying traits.


Holger Puchta, Botanical Institute, Chair Plant Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

CRISPR/Cas revolution in plant breeding – a game changer for horticulture?

Holger Puchta is professor of molecular biology and director of the Botanical Institute at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany. After PhD at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry in Munich he worked as postoc at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel, Switzerland and as group leader at the Leibnitz Institute for Plant Genetics in Gatersleben (IPK). He was worldwide the first scientist to demonstrate that site-specific nucleases can be applied to induce different kinds of controlled change in plant genomes. His group elucidated major mechanisms of DNA double strand break repair and he was one of leading scientist adopting the CRISPR/Cas technology to plants. For his work on genome engineering he was nominated “Pioneer of Plant Biotechnology” by the Plant Biotechnology Journal and awarded twice with an ERC advanced grant. A recent focus of his research centers around CRISPR/Cas mediated plant chromosome engineering.

Steven Saunders, Founder + Board Chairman of RoboticsPlus, New Zealand

MARS technologies to solve growing challenges in horticulture

Owner and Board Chairman of RPL and the Plus Group of Companies. RoboticsPlus is a company focused on developing mechanisation, automation, robotics and sensor (MARS) technologies for horticulture and other primary industries. Steve has over 28 years of experience and expertise in the New Zealand horticulture industry across the following disciplines: growing, management, financial management, innovation, new product to market, postharvest ownership, international experience in the export of horticultural products (including pollen and pollen application systems), project management and JV partnerships. As an active angel investor, he has been appointed as a director of a number of other emerging start-ups and holds key board positions with Priority One, Enterprise Angels, Icehouse and a recent Crown appointment to Landcare Research. Steve is also a shareholder and director for Newnham Park Innovation Centre, the home of many award-winning innovation-focused companies.

Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Bonn

Food Forever. Securing Plant Genetic Resources and Healthy Diets for All in Times of Climate Change

Before joining the “Crop Trust” in January 2020, Stefan has been Deputy Director-General at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). He also chaired the Steering Committee of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). For more than 10 years, Stefan was leading the food security, agriculture and rural development work at BMZ. From 2007 until 2009 he worked as senior advisor to the Secretariat of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris. Before joining the BMZ in 2001, Stefan held various posts in the German federal administration in the fields of geographical information systems, regional planning and international cooperation on urban issues. He received scholarships of the McCloy Fellowship of the American Council on Germany and of the German Academic Exchange Service. After studying in Bonn and St. Andrews, he graduated from Bonn University in geography and mathematics and received a PhD in geosciences from the Free University of Berlin in 2000.

Ulrich Schurr, Forschungszentrum Jülich, IBG-2: Plant Sciences

Plant phenotyping across borders: Overcoming technological and structural bottlenecks

Ulrich Schurr studied biology at Bayreuth University and finished his Ph.D. on the “Effect of soil drought on xylem – and phloem transport in Ricinus communis and its importance for root-shoot interaction” in 1991. He joined the laboratory of Prof. Mark Stitt at Heidelberg University and led there a workgroup on plant growth, plant transport and image analysis until 2001. Since 2001 he is director at the Institute for Bio- and Geosciences IBG-2: Plant Sciences ( at Forschungszentrum Jülich and Professor at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf. Uli Schurr is a leading scientist in plant phenotyping: he founded the Jülich Plant Phenotyping Center, initiated and coordinated the German Plant Phenotyping Network (DPPN; ) and the European Plant Phenotyping Network (EPPN/ EPPN2020; ). He chairs the ESFRI project EMPHASIS ( ), which builds a Pan-European plant Phenotyping research infrastructure and he is the chairman of the global International Plant Phenotyping Network (IPPN; ). He has also initiated the Bioeconomy Science Center (BioSC; and leads this long-term project since 2010. Recently, he focussed on the development of the BioeconomyREVIER ( – a project, which aims at building a bioeconomy model region in the region of the Rhineland, which will stop coal mining in the forthcoming years.


Jens Wünsche

University of Hohenheim

Eva Gautsch

Interplan AG

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