On the left: Ivan van Wingerden. On the right: Ivan van Wingerden with his father, partner, and Ever-Bloom’s founder Eduard van Wingerden. (Pictures taken by Dina Pielaet from 451 Media)
Greenhouse and techniques
Ever-Bloom is cultivating 250 standard gerbera and 75 special gerbera varieties in a 6ha sized wide-span greenhouse, of which 0.5ha is used for anthurium production and 0.5ha for propagation. "For Californian standards, our greenhouse is quite high tech, but for Dutch standards, our greenhouse and the techniques we use might be outdated. But the quality of the flowers is good and some techniques are not necessary here, because of the Californian climate," says van Wingerden. "We do not need grow lights or blackout curtains for example," he continued. However, there are some techniques they use that are also used in the Dutch greenhouse, like shade and humidity curtains, CO2 indicators and a boiler system.
The greenhouse of Ever-Bloom. (Pictures taken by Dina Pielaet from 451 Media)
Need for investments
Even though the quality of their gerberas is good, according to van Wingerden, there is a need to invest in techniques and methods to make the gerbera production more efficient. "Over the last few years, the prices of gerberas remained quite stable, they increased by only a few pennies. This is mainly because of the fact that our competitors, of which our biggest are situated in Canada, are not raising their prices," he says. Besides that, he explains that the gerbera market in North America has hit a ceiling. "We continually market and push the product, but sales are not as easy as they used to be. Per-capita Americans buy a lot less cut flowers than Europeans. This definitely offers great opportunities for our market to grow, but at the current time the market feels saturated with flowers. The economic sanctions on Russia, for example, have caused growers in other countries to dump product into the North American market. We obviously have no control over this but feel the effect profoundly."
"The expenses, like chemicals, fertilizers, labor costs etc, rose by 30% over the last 5 years and I expect them to increase more in the future. The Affordable Care Act (US law aimed at reforming the American health care system), for example, is prohibitively expensive and may cripple us within a few years. It is so expensive that at the current rate of increased cost it will drain our profit margin. I think this is the unfortunate reality for almost all small businesses in California.” So, in order to be able to maintain their business, to be profitable, investments are needed that will make the production more efficient and cut costs in the long run.
(Pictures taken by Dina Pielaet from 451 Media)
At the moment, several projects are running at Ever-Bloom. One of their biggest investments that is currently being installed; a pot and rail system. “We purchased a used rail system from a Dutch flower grower in British Colombia, Canada. They are actually one of our two gerbera competitors situated in Canada. They are talented growers and good competitors to have in the marketplace who constantly drive us to improve,” says van Wingerden.
So, next month, after the crop is rotated, they are planning to start using the pot and rail system in a part of the greenhouse. It will be a two-year process to cover the entire 5ha sized greenhouse with this system. "After the installation, we expect this investment to save us three to five employees a year and the payback period will be around 5 years," says van Wingerden. Other projects that will cut the costs and which are also more environmentally friendly are the use of more sustainable packaging products and the increased use of a beneficial insect program.
Contact with Dutch growers
Throughout the year, van Wingerden has a lot of contact with Dutch gerbera growers. "Four times a year, a Dutch consultant visits us to share ideas and support us with implementing new technologies that will make our gerbera production more efficient. Every other year, I visit the Netherlands to keep up to date. I am very grateful that the Dutch are so generous in sharing their knowledge and ideas," says van Wingerden.
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Ivan van Wingerden