Market – Diversity – Sustainability – Family. Four key words that best describe the company: Lilies of Life located in Rijnsburg, the Netherlands. Lilies of Life grows 9 million LA Hybrid Lilies annually, with the interest of the florist as a starting point. Gerben Ravensbergen - one of the co-owners of Lilies of Life - gives a glimpse into the company and talks about their vision, challenges and opportunities.
"For four centuries, the ‘Bollenstreek’ – a area in the Netherlands located between Haarlem and Leiden – is the heart of the Dutch flower bulb industry. A crowded populated area in the Netherlands, where the education and health level is good. Perhaps this already says enough about the sustainability of the sector."
"Our lilies symbolize our passion for life. With their color, strength and the unexpected, they emphasize the special moments in life. This also means that we, our company and our ‘Lilies of Life’ stand for this passion for life. We call that ‘Fair Trade’. Not the label, but literally the honestly of how we work."
Environmentally friendly cultivation
"Unfortunately, the Lily bulb industry does not have the best image when it comes to environmentally friendly cultivation. I do not think this is entirely justified, but we have that ‘image’. Large steps are being taken in the field of bulb cultivation in the Netherlands. Together with our suppliers of bulbs, we are looking for improvements. For example the biggest reducer of pesticides use of all outdoor crops is the Lily bulb industry! What is also nice to mention is that this year we are the first company to start with eco-label bulbs."
"We do about 5 rounds a year - 5 times planting and 5 times harvesting - and that for 30 years. Although we use the soil intensively, we plant again and again in the same soil. This soil is not steamed or treated with pesticides. What we did do is create a good stable lily bulbs ground. This includes: sea sand, bio-fertilizers and old lily and tulip soil. We continuously keep the good and bad molds in balance and prevent the growth of molds. And we do not have exhausted land, in fact the soil is getting better. My motto is: ‘If you are good to your soil, the soil is good to you’. A more organic lily cultivation is possible and it certainly does not have to affect the end product, but it needs a lot of attention from the grower."
"How to deal with weeds? That was a problem that we also wanted to solve in an environmentally friendly manner. Soon we found the most natural way: chickens! We now have around 50 chickens that are partially from the egg industry. The only weed problem that has not yet been resolved is the nettle…"
"Spring is the best climate for growing Lilies. This is why we simulate this climate in the greenhouse. However, this means that a lot of light is being used. A lot of light means electricity. Reducing electricity is actually not possible, so the energy that we use is therefore largely from green sources."
"At the end we grow Lilies for the consumer, who wants to enjoy them for a long time. But of course also for the florist, they must be able to make beautiful arrangements. A florist wants to offer a diverse range of flowers to his customer. He wants to distinguish himself from his competitions. In addition, the style of bouquets and arrangements has changed a lot. The ‘field bouquet’ is very popular now. Where one stem of Lily can make the difference. It is also important that we know what is going on in the market. Like the above trend change."
"Since our production is directly linked to the webshop of our trade customers, we can see much better where our Lilies go and what the consumer wants."
"At the moment three Royal Van Zanten Lily cultivars are being grown by us: Sunderland, Cavalia and Blackstone. In this way we cooperate. Van Zanten regularly visits our company. Sometimes with growers from other parts of the world, to show them how we do it. Van Zanten also does something extra. They help us with some publicity around the three cultivars. For example: short films and photographs have been and are being made. This to show the beauty and the possibilities of these lilies."
"My passion is to discover and grow special lilies that are asked for in the market. And also make the production more sustainable and solve problems by tackling the cause of the problem."
For more information:
Royal Van Zanten
Lavendelweg 15, Rijsenhout
P.O. Box 265, 1430 AG Aalsmeer
Tel: +31(0)297 38 70 00