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History of Semenarna Ljubljana

The year 2006 was an important year for Semenarna Ljubljana. A hundred years have passed since the company was established and embarked on its journey in 1906 at a stand under the Ljubljana’s Kresija as the "Seed Store of Maks Sever". Since those days, Semenarna Ljubljana has become one of the best seed-producing organisations in the region.

Anniversaries, even those of a respectable age, would not be special if they did reflect the thousands of small things which have accompanied the development of the company until today. This raises the question of what events had transpired in the history of Semenarna Ljubljana making it so special that keeping company alive during crises and at turning points. Only few companies in Slovenia can pride themselves on a hundred-year tradition.

Maks Sever - portret Maks Sever Maks Sever 1935

1906: Sever&Co. – Establishment of the company
In the year 1906, Maks Sever, a Slovenian merchant, who already at that time had a leading business in Europe and later also in America, opened the first seed retail store in Ljubljana. This set the foundations for today’s company which has grown into the largest Slovenian seed company over the years. The company began its journey with the tradition of employing excellent co-workers and dedication to quality.

1911: The company is renamed Sever and Co. and extends its business into Zagreb, Belgrade and Trieste
Today, when we look back at the outstandingly rapid development of the company in the 1920s and 1930s, we can be proud of its breakthrough and success. The company successfully expanded its business into the production and wholesale of seeds.

Naslovnica prodajnih katalogov Naslovnica prodajnih katalogov
The covers of commercial catalogues in 1933 and 1940

The commercial seed catalogues from some decades before the Second World War show the superior professionalism of the company which already at that time employed highly-trained experts in their fields. In many ways, the business approach of that time can serve as our model even today.

1918: Sever & Co. partnership

1919: Establishment of a branch office in Trieste

1925: Relocation of the registered office to Gosposvetska cesta 5 and construction of a storehouse at Gosposvetska cesta

1934: Establishment of a branch office in Belgrade

1935: Opening of a storehouse and seed cleaning facility in Zemun near Belgrade and purchase of an estate in Selo pri Radohovi vasi

1945: Nationalisation of the company

1946: Semenarna za Slovenijo (Semenarna for Slovenia) with independent seed production facilities
After the Second World War, the company was nationalised. At first, the seriously depleted activities continued in Slovenia under the name Semenarna za Slovenijo. The company had its headquarters at Gosposvetska cesta 5, where its biggest store with almost 200 m2 was also located. The principal offer of the store were seeds from the company's own production as well as article merchandise, small animals and food for such animals, and certain agrotechnical equipment.

Semenske vrečke za potrebe setve ene gredice in vrečka s hrano za ptice

Seed bags for sowing one garden bed and a bag with bird food

1952: Establishment of the Laboratory for Seeds Quality Control in Ljubljana
Since its establishment, the laboratory has been carrying out seed quality control under the methods or procedures laid down for each individual plant species by the International Seed Testing Association - ISTA (moisture, seed purity, germination, absolute mass, cold test, tetrazol test).

1958: Loss of the Selo and Starše seed-production facilities

1960: Establishment of the potato selection station in Kranj

1963: Merger of the Kmetijsko posestvo Radlje ob Dravi

1964: Merger of Semenarna, Semenarna Maribor, Semenarna Celje, Semenogojski obrat Radlje ob Dravi and Semenski kombinat Semenarna Ljubljana, and the renaming into the company Semenarna Ljubljana.

After the merger, the company strenghtened its activities in the production, development and marketing fields. The company is opening representation offices in all capitals and some other cities of the former Yugoslav republics and expanding the organised production of seeds for its own needs and for exportation.

1968: Semenarna establishes the Ptuj Selection Station
Development and control activities been performed in Ptuj and Ljubljana since 1968 involving the production, breeding and packing of seeds. Semenarna produced high-quality basic seeds through maintained selection which were reproduced by certified producers across Yugoslavia, at the same time breeding new varieties and introducing foreign varieties that were recognised worldwide.

1980: Construction of the storage and processing facility in Celje

1986: Construction of the Production Supply Centre in Ljubljana and the new company image
The modern production-supply centre at Rudnik in Ljubljana included production storage premises and a retail stall. In 1994 it was transformed into the first garden centre Kalia which occupied about 2000 m2.

In the following years, storehouses and business premises were constructed in Celje and at all representative offices of Semenarna Ljubljana throughout the former Yugoslavia.

1989: Construction of the Ptuj Selection Centre
Relocation into larger premises and in particular, purchase of land near the village Markovci pri Ptuju giving a fresh impetus to the production of seeds.

1989–1991: Transformation into a public limited company and establishment of subsidiary companies and representations abroad
Before the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Semenarna Ljubljana had over 100 retail stores. They were spread around the entire country and operated within 10 independent business units, together with the wholesale and personnel services. Managers of the independent business units held colleges every month in Ljubljana where they reported on sales. The number of retail-trade units was highest in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, and lower in Croatia and Macedonia.

In the year 1989, the Serbian market was blocked, followed by the reorganisation of market units into subsidiary companies. In Slovenia, the combine was reorganised into the uniform company Semenarna Ljubljana.

1991–1992: Loss of the traditional market and loss of verified areas for seed production
After Slovenia's independence, Semenarna Ljubljana faced the loss of the Yugoslavian market and thus also seed production possibilities in traditionally proven areas. This was followed by denationalisation and the loss of a part of its assets in the republics of the former Yugoslavia, representing the most crucial and difficult period for the company. However, the company's management was oriented towards Europe realising that in order to survive, a new concept would be necessary to operate within a smaller area, which would provide for the expansion of the sales programme, in particular in the direction of arranging the living environment.

Our employees' firm belief in the company's success, as well as the trust of our business partners and customers  helped it overcome the most difficult years. With the development of our own trademarks, introduction of new activities and representations, development of the garden centre network, and especially trust-worthy products, we maintained our position on the home market and successfully export our products despite the fierce competition.

1993: Establishment of the development department for biotechnology and opening of a representative office in Prague

1994: Relocation of the company's management to Dolenjska cesta 242
The company's headquarters which until 1994 was at Gosposvetska cesta 5 was relocated. he first Kalia garden centre was opened near the new headquarters of Semenarna Ljubljana at Dolenjska c. 242.

1995: Semenarna Ljubljana becomes a joint stock company and establishes the Agrigenetics Breeding Centre in Osijek

The denationalisation and ownership transformation processes were followed by the company's transformation into the Semenarna Ljubljana, d. d. into a joint stock company. The process was conducted in accordance with Slovene legislation.

1996: Opening of the second Kalia garden centre in BTC in Ljubljana

1999: Opening of the third Kalia garden centre in Maribor and concentration of seed processing in Celje

2000: Opening of the fourth Kalia garden centre in Murska Sobota and capital increase of the company by foreign partners

2001: Opening of the fifth Kalia garden centre Kalia in Celje and registration of the Kalia service trademark

2002: Establishment of the subsidiary companies Semenarna Kosovë Priština and Semenarna BH Sarajevo

2003: Purchase of KŽK Kranj

2004: Establishment of the subsidiary company SK Semenarna Beograd

2005: Establishment of the company Semenarna Hungaria, take-over of Zadružna kmetijska družba and full accreditation of the Laboratory for Seeds Quality Control at the International Seed Testing Association – ISTA.

2007: Opening of the Kalia garden centre in Novo mesto and Trusted brand 2007 award for Kalia

2008: Superbrands 2008 Award for Semenarna Ljubljana, construction of a new production facility and relocation of production to Celje, closure of the storehouse in Maribor and centralisation of logistics in Ljubljana

2009: Opening of the Rodovita agro-distribution centre in Lendava and the Kalia garden centre in Zagreb, Superbrands Slovenia 2009 award for Kalia

2010: Closure of the company Semenarna Hungaria and opening of the first franchise Merkur Rodovita in Lendava