Alberta growers brush up knowledge in Europe

Have you seen a group of five with identical green jackets at the IPM Essen? Then, you've probably seen the five growers from Alberta, Canada. They were invited by Ball Horticultural to join them on a bus tour and to attend two days at the IPM Essen. They, however extended their trip and visited several growers and horticultural companies in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany on their own planning agenda, the week in advance. They have learned a lot and are eager to share this knowledge with their industry members in Alberta and beyond and in the coming year, they will attend various speaking events. "It is how we all grown and improve as an industry", says Nadine Stielow of Thiel's Greenhouses, one of the five growers.

From left to right: Nadine Stielow, Christie and Tanner Pollack, Jason Andersen and Carmen Sim.

The group
The Alberta crew included Nadine Stielow from Thiel’s Greenhouse (located in Bruderheim), Jason Andersen from Kathy’s Greenhouse (Kitscoty), Carmen Sim from Country Gardens and Greenhouses (Ponoka), and Christie and Tanner Pollack from Christie’s Gardens and Greenhouses (High Prairie). Special about the group is that they are all grower retailers and that they range in size of one acre and under. "We are relatively on the small side but we are big in our ability to connect with the end consumer. We have a direct dialogue with the people we sell to and this means we can affect change quickly based on our market needs", says Stielow.

During their trip in Europe, they could be recognized by their green jackets. "We branded our little group for the trip and had jackets made to create an impact back home and to recognize the companies that sponsored parts of the trip or gave tours. We wore them all over Europe." And have you seen the backs of the jackets? Next to the sponsored parts HortiDaily and FloralDaily also got a spot.

The tour
On January 15, they arrived in the Netherlands where their two week tour began, of course after taking the time to adjust to the time difference and do some sight seeing. In the first week, before the Ball Horticultural tour, they visited greenhouses and horticultural suppliers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany on their own plannings schedule. They firstly went to the Delphy Improvement Center, then to Dry Hydroponics, followed by World Horti Center and Rijk Zwaan. "The LED lighting at Delphy was interesting for as several of us are adding light systems in the coming years. The Dry Hydroponics visit was particularly interesting for me (Nadine) as I'm setting up this same system over the next years. In the following days, they also visited the Headquarters of Biobest in Belgium, received a greenhouse tour of a tomato producer and a tour of a popular high end garden center.

At dry hydroponics, Nadine Stielow on the picture.

Christie Pollack documented the entire trip and published several articles and experiences in her blog In one of her posts she described their Dry Hydroponics and World Horti Center visit in more detail (click here for the blog) and in another post, the entire two week trip: "What we learned on our European Horticulture Travels" with pictures.

After describing the first week, Pollack documented the trip that was hosted by Ball Horticultural. With a group of around 60 growers from all over North America, these Albertan growers visited several horticultural companies in Germany. They firstly visited a breeder with Dummen Orange, followed by grower Emsflower, grower Gartenbau Johannes Heekeren, the rooting station of Selecta one called Gartenbaus Christoph Schonges, Gartencenter Selback and grower Josef Engels. The tour ended with a two day visit to the IPM Essen.

The growers were flooded with information about the companies, the techniques they use, the European market and more. In this article, there will be no room to go into detail about their entire trip, but this all is described in Pollack's blog. Below some pictures of their trip, made by Christie Pollack and Nadine Stielow.

Sam Gui, Nadine Stielow, Jason Andersen, Christie Pollack at the Biobest Headquarters in Belgium.

On the left: IPM and Pollination Specialist Sam Gui, Nadine Stielow, Jason Andersen and Tanner Pollack all suited up and disinfected for the Den Berk tomato greenhouse tour in Belgium, guided by Sam Gui. (The orange glow is from the grow lights.)

Dümmen Orange new construction for their Elite Library. " This particular greenhouse is currently being re-built into a state of the art facility for even better control of Dümmen Orange’s ‘elite library’ (library of plants). Their elite library is protected on a principal called ‘Green Care‘."

Christie and Tanner Pollack and Nadine Stielow at Emsflower. "Emsflowers is 7 million square feet (a quarter section). We walked 1km from the front of the building to the end where they’re still building on more greenhouses. What’s also amazing is that over 90% of the crop they’re growing is already sold. With numbers like that, I’d build a greenhouse this big too!"

Gartenbau Johannes Heekeren. "This greenhouse grew a lot of grasses (and really neat varieties) and had an entire outdoor area that it used for greenhouse crop production."


Rolling benches at Gartenbau Christoph Schonges

Gartencenter Selbach

Hydrangea crop at Gartencenter Josef Engels

Gartencenter Josef Engels

Reason for the tour
But what was the initial reason for initiating this trip? "Last spring when we were presented with the opportunity to go on the annual grower tour to Essen I thought it might be great to go with 4 other growers that are all like minded in terms of our production methods, business culture and how we market our products. Growers that are all leaders in our Alberta industry (we are all directors on our industry provincial organization -Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association - AGGA) and similar in many ways, yet we all have different specialties and business focus. Ball Hort extended the invitation to our group of 5 and the vision for our tour of EU began", says Stielow.

Sharing knowledge and experience
Before they started the trip, the group agreed that during the trip (#eurohorttrip2018) and upon return, they would be sharing what they learned and experienced on social media and as presenters at industry events. The group also kept a diary of events on twitter under the hashtag #albertagrowersgonewild "We strongly feel that if you get such an amazing opportunity, then you should also share the experience and knowledge with others. It is how we all grow and improve as an industry", says Stielow. Their first speaking event will be at the end of February.

For more information:
Thiel's Greenhouses
Nadine Stielow

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