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King’s visit

NL: Anthura celebrates 80th birthday in grand fashion

In the presence of King Willem-Alexander and a large group of business relations, Anthura celebrated its 80th birthday last Friday. The King was treated to an extensive tour, after which three roundtables were held, chaired by TV host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk. Prominent guests from the horticultural sector, the research world and the retail sector joined in to share their vision on breeding, sustainability and the marketing of tomorrow. A visit to the showroom and a barbecue concluded the day.

No expense was spared and the line-up unmistakably underlined the importance that Anthura enjoys in floriculture but also far beyond. The breeder, which recently played a prominent role in their participation in GenNovation and, in their own words, fully charted the genome of both anthurium and phalaenopsis, sells its own varieties in all corners of the world.

The grandfather of Mark and Iwan van der Knaap, who together with Marco van Herk form the management since 2004, could of course never have imagined this with his vegetable garden.

The ledger from 1938 contains the first notes from Jan van der Knaap, the first generation that started the horticultural business.

At the table
The King was accompanied by the King's Commissioner and the local mayor. After the tour they also witnessed the first table discussion, and what followed proved to be worthwhile. This time not the marketing persons and futurologists, who usually appear on stage at such parties, but the people who actually take care of the breeding, production, logistics, marketing, sales.

For example, Ernst van den Ende (Plant Physics director at WUR), Michel Haring (professor of plant physiology), Anke Sørensen (vice-chair Keygene) and Heleen Bastiaanssen (anthurium breeder at Anthura) discussed the breeding of tomorrow; Volkert Engelsman (director Eosta), Cees van der Meij (director Royal Lemkes), Leon Mol (director product safety Ahold Delhaize) and Henri Oosthoek (director Koppert Biological Systems), had a heated debate on sustainability, and the market of tomorrow was outlined by Rogier Schmit (Vanad Biss), Steven van Schilfgaarde (CEO FloraHolland), Martijn van Noort (director Floral Trade Group), Marcel van der Hoeven (director of Blueroots) and Geert van Geest (director LVG Plants).

Fire truck red orchid
"A fire engine red orchid, is that possible?" Matthijs asked the first table. He immediately forced the ladies and gentlemen to give full disclosure: what can the consumer expect, which possibility do these new breeding techniques offer and what is the situation with GMO? And what does that mean, 'we have mapped the entire genome'? It certainly is a complex matter for the uninitiated, but it became clear that now, at this moment in history, insanely exciting things are about to happen in this area.

A combination of big data and ultra-fine machinery to be able to cut and paste on a microscopic scale will, in the first place, ensure tremendous speed. The whole body of ethical problems, which Matthijs mentioned a number of times, admittedly must not be trivialized, but you should not whine too much about it either. One secretly believes, with the chances that both these techniques and the possibilities to find new and stronger varieties, to have found the formula for gold.

Poinsettia with a poisonous edge
After the King had left, the bell sounded for the second round. The subject was sustainability and was opened with the atmosphere-spoiling 'Poinsettia with a poisonous edge' campaign, recently launched by Greenpeace. This turned out to be the dropping of a bombshell, to allow the table guests to say how we really are going to do this, sustainable cultivation. Two questions were prominent: who is actually responsible for a clean, green, happy and sustainable product, and who has to pay for it. To that first question Cees (Royal Lemkes) had the answer ready: all of us. We are now quite used to paying the grower for kilos and stems by the meter, and to blame him if he uses too many resources. But the consumer pays for everything that is associated and sensitive about the product. That is why the whole chain is involved in the value creation, he explained, and the responsibility must be shared together. There is the risk that it will be limited to nice words and that the actual responsibility and consequences will be avoided. Make financial agreements, argues the director of Eosta, because otherwise exactly that happens. We can even make such beautiful arrangements and possibly get together in pre-competitive cooperations, but at the end of the day, that alone may not be enough.

Sale of tomorrow
And finally on to the trade. The big challenges in logistics are in digital innovation and in logistics. Everyone agrees with that, but what exactly does that mean? You may wonder: as a consumer, do I want to compose a personal bouquet out of one million billion flowers and done very cheaply, to be delivered at one click of the button, or do I have to be seduced as in front of the big screen, persuaded with beautiful stories, to experience the products in all possible ways and then pay big money? Surely a bit of both. Where the gentlemen at the table did not agree with each other, was about the organization of the logistics. Does the auction still exist in 5 years, Steven van Schilfgaarde was asked. Yes, he says, because all the aspects have to come together somewhere. But no, others say, because really smart digital and logistic solutions will solve that for you.

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