Hans Bentvelsen, African Roots:

"When Dutch cutting production is at its weakest, we are at our strongest"

At an altitude of 2,600 meters above sea level in the Kenyan village Ol'Kalou, Highlands Plants is located. The 26 ha propagation nursery, owned by Dutch entrepreneur Paul Zwinkels, employs 400 people. Half of the nursery is used for the production of bedding plants, annual plants and grasses and the other half for the production of herbs.

Arno Treuren and Hans Bentvelsen, at the FloraHolland Trade Fair in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, the nursery is - or the cuttings that are produced at this nursery - known as African Roots. The Dutch company was established five years ago with the aim to streamline and expand the sales of plants. In order to flesh out this aim, Paul Zwinkels contacted Hans Bentvelsen, a Dutchman who sold his nursery in the Westland area. With his knowledge and experience he spoke the language of a grower.

A visit to the nursery in Kenya persuaded Hans to cooperate with Paul. "Paul lives at the nursery and leads the company. He guides the cultivation and monitors the quality. And due to the continued contact with the employees, we have a much better insight in the daily routines. On top of that, I really believed in the strength and potential of the company."

The company in Kenya

The majority of the 600 different products are planted and harvested according to the orders they receive, but of course, some product categories are more in focus than others. Next to the entrepreneurship of Paul, the strength of the company, according to Hans, are the following two points: consequent rooting and shipping out the cuttings - "it results in a better quality plant when it arrives at the nursery and it is more vital" - and besides that, the location.

"Since October up to and including February, when the weather in the Netherlands is bad and the production of cuttings therefore at its weakest, we are at our strongest. The circumstances over here are optimal to produce strong and vital cuttings. Because we are at a height of 2,600 meters above sea level, the day temperatures are around 20/25 degrees, but the night temperatures decrease to 4/5 degrees. As the quality is dependent on the height on which it is being cultivated - in cool circumstances the plants, for example, remain short and sturdy - we can produce cuttings in a way that many other growers cannot."

The company in Kenya

From unrooted to rooted
According to Hans, more and more Dutch growers take advantage of these alleged benefits. "Increasingly more growers see the benefits of using our cuttings and plugs. Around 5 years ago, about 75 percent of our sales consisted of unrooted cuttings, now, it is 25 percent. Exactly the opposite."

For more information:
African Roots
Hans Bentvelsen
Middel Broekweg 29
(Kantoor H184)
2675 KB Honselersdijk
+31(0)6 43 903 703
E: hans@african-roots.nl

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