“It is good to stop and think”, Micha Danziger told us. While in the halls of the Expo Aalsmeer the stands were being prepared for the IFTF, which gets underway today, in an adjacent room the Floriforum was held. A mixed crowd of growers, traders, retail and logistics gathered to share their thoughts on the future of the industry. And there's a lot to think about: Brexit, CRISPR-Cas, and the question: how do we get the consumer to buy more flowers, preferably at a higher price?
Branding is a way to increase the price. Everyone knows Heineken and Coca Cola. But to brand flowers, that's a bit more difficult. Marco van Zijverden of Dutch Flower Group: "That beer or cola tastes the same everywhere, but the quality and characteristics of flowers are different everywhere."
The Brexit is another subject of interest. Jonathan Ralling of Flamingo Horticulture commented on it, but "just like everyone else I don't know what the plans are. The flower industry is all about that 'what if' question. You always need to a have a Plan B. Brexit is one of the obstacles that move us toward exploring new markets."
Pieter Elbers, CEO of KLM, was invited to talk about the logistical future of the industry. The airliner went through a difficult period, with the number of cargo planes going from 11 back to 4. Nevertheless, Pieter assured the audience that flower transport remains important to them.
Pieter Elbers, CEO of KLM
10% of all cargo is comprised of flowers, mainly from Ecuador, Colombia and Kenya. Although KLM is approaching its limits with 500,000 flight movements, growth is still possible by working more efficiently. That's why he calls on stakeholders to work together.
Micha Danziger of Danziger and Hans van den Heuvel of Dümmen Orange spoke about product innovation. The latter was particularly adamant. "We've been breeding tulips in the Netherlands for 400 years now, and the process hasn't changed one bit. That's why we keep running into the same problems, like fusarium. Therefore, we invest in ways to speed up the breeding process, so we can be ahead of the diseases."
Micha Danziger and Hans van den Heuvel
Dümmen Orange works together with various vegetable breeders. Hans: "Thirty years ago, they already started breeding varieties that are resistant to the most common diseases. That's where we need to be headed as well." Marco van Zijverden is pleased to hear that. "Yes, it's got to look pretty, but it also has to add value with a longer vase life, resistance and such. We benefit more from that than from a color or shape that's just a tad different."
Of course, CRISPR-Cas was touched upon as well. The EU sees this breeding method as genetic modification, and for that reason it's not allowed. Dümmen Orange recently started construction on an R&D center in De Lier (Netherlands). Moderator Simone van Trier wondered whether that was a good idea. Hans responded that while he would love to use CRISPR-Cas, there are still plenty of other technologies to innovate with.