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"Bryce Anderson: "Interest in sustainable alternatives is rising"

US: HC Companies extends range of biodegradable containers

The world is becoming more environmentally conscious and so are growers. They are looking for sustainable alternatives and this is noticed by horticultural container manufacturer The HC Companies, Inc. Four years ago, they designed their first 100% biodegradable and compostable container and over the last year, they increased their range to meet the demands of every one in the supply chain.

Bryce Anderson at the Cultivate'16 in Columbus, Ohio.

Sustainable alternatives
According to HC Companies' Territory Sales Manager Bryce Anderson, the interest in sustainable alternatives is rising in all industries in the US and it is becoming a significant selling point, also in the horticulture sector. "About four years ago, we produced our first 100% biodegradable and compostable tray and pot system, the EcoGrow, for a vegetable grower, who was the only exclusive user of this product at that time. As we saw good potential for these containers, we started to open up and offer our containers to more growers in North America." And this seemed to be good decision. "We see that consumers, Millennials (age 18-35) in particular, often times prefer sustainable products. However, the costs are always an important factor. Sustainable products are often more expensive and therefore less attractive for the grower. Fortunately, we were able to design a container that has a similar pricing model as our plastic injection molded containers."

EcoGrow containers are made from recycled non-printed paper and natural ingredients that break down over time. The original EcoGrow container has an outside diameter of 3.88 inch and height of 3.38 inch. This container is compatible with a fiber molded tray. Over the last 9-12 months, HC Companies invested in increasing the range of containers and they now can supply 7 different round pot sizes. Currently they are working on a project to design compatible fiber molded trays for these sizes.

Potting machines
All pots are designed to be used in potting machines. "We have done and are still conducting trials at several growers and the containers can be used on many potting machines." And they are still improving the containers. "Many biodegradable pots sometimes have the tendency to stick together when they are stacked together. Therefore, we are cooperating with potting machine manufacturers who are advising us how to improve our products".

Bob Martin of Martin Farms Ltd.He grows garden ready vegetables in Ontario, Canada. His ‘The Veggie Guy’ line of vegetables is grown exclusively in EcoGrow pots. “EcoGrow meets all of our production requirements; they perform for the duration of the crop cycle. Our retail customers like the ‘straight from the farm’ look EcoGrow provides, making them aesthetically appealing and preferred by their customers.”

Hold up through production process
According to Anderson, the fact that the containers hold up throughout the growing and retail cycles is one of the key advantages. "EcoGrow performs similar to a regular plastic pots. It will not fall apart when watering the plants, it only happens when it is put in the soil", says Anderson.

3-way approach
When designing the containers, HC Companies uses a 3-way approach. "We first look at the requirements of the grower, then how the retailer wants to present it to their customers and finally how it is handled by the customer. Our aim is to meet the needs of everyone in the chain."

Anticipate instead of respond
According to Anderson, this industry needs to engage Millennials. In order to achieve this, it is very important to anticipate and not to respond to the needs of this target group. "Of course, this approach entails more risks, but if you offer them a solution before it crosses their mind, you are on the right track", he says. 

For more information
HC Companies
Bryce Anderson
Email: [email protected]