About six years ago, Belgian azalea grower Andesch Flower took the first cautious steps in the cultivation of herbs. Now the company has grown into one of the big players on the market. It's one of the two organic producers of herbs in Belgium, and it's also a grower who's very passionate about sustainable innovation. The latest development in this regard is their introduction of a new, fully biodegradable line of pots and trays.
Antoon, Thibo and Jens de Clerq
For Herbachef, the brand under which Andesch Flower sells their plants, organic growing actually means growing as it has always been done in Italy. But then, of course, without the use of chemical crop protection agents (as often happens there). That means open greenhouses, a cold culture, biological pest control and a plethora of audits and certifications. "That should really also include sustainable packaging, and together with Modiform we found a solution. With these pots and trays the consumer gets a fully biodegradable packaging concept," father and sons De Clercq say. "In the ground it composts completely within a year. If the customer wants to throw it away, it can be recycled with old paper."
The grower had Modiform make a mold specifically for producing these pots. At the nursery the cultivation takes place in plastic pots, but for delivery plants are repotted in the sustainable pots. That plastic pot can then simply be used again for the next cultivation cycle. Furthermore, the stick and label, not to mention the tray itself, are all made of compostable material.
The new greenhouse will soon be erected on the right-hand side
Towards an organic crop
18 different types of herbs are cultivated, which, depending on the season, are available for most of the year. Plants are delivered in pot sizes 10.5 and 14 cm, and since a year ago also in pot size 17 cm. "At the very beginning we started with hanging pots," says Antoon. "Organic cultivation came into the picture later. That was really pioneering back then and we could not really see it. In practice it has become more and more like traditional cultivation: in the open air, where the plastic greenhouse in fact only serves to protect against wind during winter and against the bright sun during summer."
The planning can pose a challenge. One plant grows much faster than the other, but especially the moment of sowing is important. In winter, nothing grows, and if you still want to be able to deliver an order, it must be ready in the autumn. An order for the summer months requires a more last minute approach.
Getting into organic herbal cultivation, which was partly motivated by a difficult azalea market, has been a fortunate move by the company. The demand is good, especially now that the southern plants are facing a Xylella-tainted image. And the number of suppliers in the organic segment is limited. This autumn, De Clerq hopes to start with 1.5 hectares of new construction.
For more information:
Herbachef & Andesch Flower