Some might call orchids low-maintenance: they require water only once every three weeks. But Floricultura Pacific greenhouse in Salinas has elevated orchid care to a Space Age science.
“We probably have more technology in here than in any other U.S. greenhouse,” general manager Don Howell said, gesturing to a maze of conveyor belts and cranes suspended from the ceiling.
This center of innovation began in 2006, when the Dutch company Floricultura bought an old complex of greenhouses off Esperanza Road. In greenhouse circles, Holland means innovation, according to Howell.
Dutch conditions require creative approaches, he explained. The Netherlands’ high wages make automation an attractive investment, and the cold climate demands temperature-controlled greenhouses.
When the company began the search for an American location, the East Coast initially seemed attractive because, Howell explained, many American buyers live along the Atlantic. But the weather proved too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, poisonous ingredients for keeping utility bills low.
Salinas offered a much milder climate, but even here, not all sites suited the company’s connoisseur tastes. Billowing fog discouraged Floricultura from purchasing a nearby greenhouse — orchids must have their sun.
“This location is very unique,” Howell said. “It’s ideal for what we’re trying to do.”
Grown in the lab
Labs in the Netherlands breed orchids through tissue cultures. Scientists shave off a piece of stem from a desired plant and clone it in a petri dish. They then ship samples to the Salinas greenhouse for further growth. For charismatic plants like orchids, cloning offers critical predictability.
“People used to cross two whites and get a pink,” said Howell.
Now the greenhouse can develop orchids to maximize the color, flower size, and number buyers want.Source: The Californian