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Ornamental Grower Study Tour Of The Netherlands – Review (Part One)

25 September 2014

In August, we took a group of Welsh ornamental growers to Boskoop, a town in South Holland which is renowned for its nurseries and has played an integral role in establishing the Netherlands’ position as the undisputed global market leader in flowers, plants, and bulbs.

Our study tour enabled the growers to gain genuine insights from real industry experts, learning new ideas and techniques that will help boost their businesses back in Wales. When you also take into account the valuable new contacts the growers made – with fellow Welsh businesses and their Dutch peers – it’s safe to say it was a very worthwhile experience for everyone concerned…

Horticulture Wales study tour to Holland (500px * 375px)

Day One

Rijnbeek & Zoon BV

Our tour started with a visit to Rijnbeek & Zoon BV, a perennials specialist that trades internationally, including clean root plants it exports to the USA, Canada, and Japan. The family-run nursery was established in 1939, originally growing trees, shrubs, and roses, but production was switched to perennial plants to try and differentiate it from competing nearby nurseries.

The nursery encompasses 40 acres across two sites (one of which includes a five acre glasshouse), with more than 2,500 varieties grown in total – annual production covers two million pot-grown plants, with another million grown in the ground, plus around 300,000 plants propagated in larger pots.

Nico Rijnbeek revealed that to cut down on transportation, the nursery includes a reversible conveyor belt that runs for a quarter of a mile long, along which 1,800 of its varieties are arranged in alphabetical order. He also explained that the nursery started experimenting with barcoding and labelling nearly two decades ago, making it one of the first to adopt such a system. Today, thanks to its on-site labelling facilities, all products are retail-ready.

Rijnbeek and Zoon BV 1 (500px * 375px)Rijnbeek and Zoon BV 4 (500px * 375px)

Jan Nieuwesteeg BV

Our party then moved on to Jan Nieuwesteeg BV, a hugely successful nursery specialising in growing premium plants that are sold to garden centres across Europe. Covering one and a half acres and employing five full and part-time staff, it specialises in rhododendrons, acers, willow, magnolia, and some buxus, while liners are also bought in from Belgium.

The nursery exports to the UK, including some well-established customers in South Wales, and our growers were interested to hear how the excellent relationships it has made with four or five transport companies, plus other nurseries in the area, has made this viable. Willem Nieuwesteeg explained how the nursery is often able to ‘piggy back’ deliveries with other exporters, meaning that it is as feasible to deliver small orders of three trolleys as it is to transit a full lorry themselves.

Jan Nieuwesteeg BV 3 (500px * 375px)

P de Frankrijker & Zonen BV

Until seven years ago, P de Frankrijker & Zonen BV was a growing nursery, but it has since switched to become a hugely successful wholesaler and exporter, primarily to Scandinavia, Germany, and the UK.

Our growers got shown round its cold-store for ornamentals, which Kees de Frankrijker explained can hold up to 100 pallets. We learned it is mainly used in January and February to ensure plants set for export to Norway are stored at the correct temperature and can handle the colder climate there.

P de Frankrijker & Zonen BV works with around 400 suppliers – just over half of which are nurseries from Boskoop – with Kees outlining how, apart from the products kept in cold storage, the vast majority of plants are held at the nursery for a matter of days before they are moved on for export.

On the day of our tour, the nursery was also staging its own trade show for selected growers and suppliers, offering our group an outstanding opportunity to meet new contacts and network. The trade fair included 8,000 samples from top suppliers, and it was interesting to note that all plants had labels including barcodes that could be scanned with a smartphone to link directly through to the nursery’s online ordering system – incidentally, the display price tended to be Scandinavian.

P de Frankrijker 3 (500px * 375px)

Kortmann Miniplant BV

Based on a three acre nursery – half of which is covered by a glasshouse – Kortmann Miniplant BV is the only large-scale rooted cuttings company still operating in Boskoop. Showing our growers around the glasshouse, Peter Kortmann explained how the structure sinks by approximately a centimetre a year, and how the hard-standing inside has to be re-laid every 10 or 11 centimetres, with a layer of mypex laid onto peat, followed by a layer of lava stones, and finally another layer of mypex. While the pure peat soil of Boskoop had been hugely advantageous until the early 1960s, the increasing popularity of container plants, compared to bare-root or root-ball plants, means that this is no longer the case.

Our growers were particularly interested in the method Kortmann Miniplant BV uses to propagate fresh cuttings, which involves a sheet of plastic being laid directly on top of the young plants and removed at set intervals for brief drying out periods. This differs from current standard UK practice, where sheeting is suspended above the plants without touching them, with a number of the Welsh growers keen to try out the ‘Boskoop system’ when they returned to their nurseries.

Kortmann Miniplant BV 3 (500px * 375px)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to read the second part of our review…

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