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De Wilgenlei, Barry van der Knaap:

NL: A look inside the Champions League of sustainable production

Cultivation and management should progressively become cleaner and more sustainable, but what if you are not following the majority, but rather are ahead of the legislator? "Recently growers are no longer allowed to discharge anything at all, and many companies are struggling to achieve this in time. This is not applicable to us. Twenty years ago, when we had this greenhouse built, we were perhaps the first in the country to realize a completely closed water system."

Barry van der Knaap

That is what Barry van der Knaap from Kwekerij De Wilgenlei from Bleiswijk, the Netherlands is saying. On a tour through the greenhouse he talks about the company, which is managed by him and his brother, Robin van der Knaap. The grower is known from their hibiscus, which has been cultivated by the father of the young entrepreneurs since forever and also dispose of a wide assortment of ficus. A large part of it is exclusively in production at De Wilgenlei.

Sustainable, more sustainable, most sustainable
Sustainability and clean entrepreneurship, that is what Barry likes to emphasize on. In recent years a 'hot issue', but at De Wilgenlei they had noticed this theme much earlier. For example, tests are regularly carried out on various levels to make the production process even more sustainable, a recent example of this is a test with a substrate with low peat content. In addition, they have one employee in the field of cultivation who is exclusively engaged with biological crop protection, who scouts plants all day and guards the right biological balance. And also, with regard to the energy supply and thanks to a residual heat link with nearby industries, gas is almost superfluous. "A few people actually want a cleaner and more sustainable cultivation, but there are also many who do just the minimum to obtain the right stamp. In our opinion, sustainability is mainly about content," according to Barry.

In addition to the usual certifications such as MPS-A, GAP and SQ, De Wilgenlei meanwhile has also started with MPS-ProductProof. This is a certificate in which independent sampling can be used to show that certain active substances have not been used in the cultivation. They are also in a process in which footprint calculations are made of all products, a way of assessing the impact of certain choices on the environment.

Green thumbs
The craft, the green thumbs - these are still really important at De Wilgenlei. No mass production here, but a lot of manual work, a small but permanent team of employees and a lot of attention for optimizing the cultivation process and product innovation. The young guard is now at the helm, but precisely in the cultivation, in the actual craft, Barry and Robin still make gratefully use of the expertise of their father.

In terms of cultivation, they have various types of tropical houseplants such as dieffenbachia and ficus. In addition, a lot of attention is given to the hibiscus. It is a plant that is not easy to cultivate. Normally, the hibiscus is the plant that is known for the colorful flowers, however these flowers fall off after two days. De Wilgenlei has, in cooperation with the Danish breeder Graff Breeding, the varieties in house that deviate from it. The flowers are larger and remain open on plants for a minimum of 4 or 5 days. These varieties are marketed under the HibisQs brand. Furthermore, an exclusive product such as the Plumbago, is cultivated.

Now that trade in the last two years has been doing well again, Barry is mainly looking ahead and to make cultivation and assortment future-proof. There also have been more difficult times, they know from their own experience. There are always still further steps to be taken in the area of sustainable and organic production.

For more information:
De Wilgenlei
Barry van der Knaap
Hyacintenweg 4
2665 NC Bleiswijk
T: +31 (0)10 266 39 10
F: +31(0)10 266 39 20
M: 06 388 23 115

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