Niki Schwaiger and colleague at SAPPI

People of SUSFERT – Sappi

In this new blog series called “People of SUSFERT” we will bring our research, industry and SME partners to the forefront one by one, so you can get to know us and our SUSFERT objectives even better. Welcome to the stage – Nikolaus Schwaiger from Sappi!

Niki Schwaiger and colleague at SAPPI

Niki Schwaiger and his colleague in the Sappi plant in Gratkorn ((c) Sappi)


Who is who? – Sappi

Sappi is the leading European producer of coated fine paper which is used in premium magazines, catalogues, books and high-end print advertising. As part of Sappi Limited (JSE), a global diversified wood fibre company, their focus lies mainly on providing dissolving wood pulp, specialities and packaging papers, graphic/printing papers, as well as biomaterials and biochemicals.


Sappi Gratkorn aerial view

Sappi Gratkorn plant – aerial view ((c) Sappi)



Within the SUSFERT project, Nikolaus and his team from Sappi are leading the coating development to provide bio-based controlled release coatings for our new, sustainable SUSFERT fertilisers (Work Package 2) and they are involved in several other tasks as well.

Watch our animation video to find out more, why this step is so important to the whole project!


The blog interview – Nikolaus Schwaiger (Sappi)

Niki, what made you join the SUSFERT project and what experiences do you bring into the consortium?

I started my work at Sappi R&D Europe at Gratkorn on May 1st of 2018 – the same day the SUSFERT project started. My job description at Sappi is chemical engineer biorefinery, which is more or less the transfer of lab-scale technologies into tech-scale or pilot-scale. Prior my work at Sappi I was a post-doc at Graz University of Technology at Institute of chemical engineering and environmental technology and in parallel technical expert for 2nd generation biofuels.


What is your role and the role of your organisation in the SUSFERT project?

We at Sappi are the provider of the slow release coating material, the lignosulfonates. These lignosulfonates are a by-product of the so called Magnefite pulping process applied in our Gratkorn mill. We are customizing the lignosulfonates for polymerisation and are transferring the polymerisation process that partner BOKU developed for a lab-scale procedure up to a pilot scale.


How did you get interested in the work you are doing now? What are your most passionately about when in the office/lab?

The work on renewables and making our daily life a bit more independent from the petrol industry is a high level motivation for us. Besides the possibilities Sappi is offering as multinational concern with ambitious sustainability goals are downright fantastic. Also, a big plus to me is the highly sophisticated chemistry of lignocellulose and especially lignin and its derivatives as such – it just stays super interesting!


What do you personally hope to learn/experience through working in a BBI-JU project like SUSFERT?

Mainly, we have to learn how we make the process of producing a fossil-free fertiliser coating run economically. Having the technology is great but making it desirable to the market is going to make it perfect.


If you had one message to send to the public for everybody to know about the future of your work and SUFERT, what would you like to tell them?

Reaching the goal of a fully integrated biorefinery is already a bit closer by now. It is an amazing journey, and the SUSFERT project is a part of it!


Thank you for the interview, Niki! Glad to have you on board!


If you want to know more about SUSFERT partner Niki Schwaiger and Sappi go to the SUSFERT website. For the latest news on agricultural innovation, fertilisers and the sustainable use of natural resources follow us on social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Research Gate, and consider subscribing to our bi-annual SUSFERT newsletter!