Royal FloraHolland is a logistics marvel. Each weekday, some 10 million cut flowers and plants are shipped into and out of the growers cooperative’s cavernous facility, just down the road from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Hundreds of workers zip around the gigantic complex on electric tractors, all towing trolleys containing buckets and buckets of flowers. As many as 22,000 trolleys are staged daily in this elaborate shuffle. Some carry freshly shipped flowers from trucks to vast cold storage. Others ferry those sold at auction from cold storage to be processed and then to waiting trucks or to wholesalers in adjacent warehouses.
The building is slotted with more than 1,100 docks. On one side of the building, hundreds of trucks unload flowers from growers in the Netherlands, as well as those coming from the airport, some five miles away. On the other side, trucks load up flowers, destined for retailers around Europe, or back to the airport, where they are flown to North America and Asia.
This more than 5.5 million square feet facility in the town of Aalsmeer, along with four satellite auction buildings around the Netherlands, represents the epicenter of the global flower trade. Some 40% of worldwide flower exports flows from these operations. Aalsmeer is the single largest distribution facility in the world today. FloraHolland sells 12 billion products a year and is a more-than $5 billion business.