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Mike van Steekelenburg, CosMic Plants:

Canada: “We are now using our full 240,000 sq ft expansion of orchid production”

When CosMic Plants first acquired their second location, an existing, modern 240,000 square feet greenhouse in June 2016, they initially only used half of it for their own Phalaenopsis production. “That was the plan all along, as we wanted to do everything in steps. When we felt comfortable with the market and the development of our sales, we decided to start using the full facility,” explains Mike van Steekelenburg, co-owner of CosMic Plants, a Canadian orchid grower. Van Steekelenburg also shares how they are able to improve the quality of their orchids, how they are maximizing container space, as well as a recent shift in popular orchid colors.

The CosMic Plants facility 

Now in full production
In June of 2016, CosMic Plants added an existing greenhouse to their production, and decided to initially only use half of it. “The other half we rented out to another grower, as we think it is important to do things in steps and see the results. Once we noticed that the market was doing well we decided to start using the full facility in 2020. It took from July until December to get everything in place, as we needed to add all the proper systems, such as shading, grow lights, heating, cooling, grow-tables and irrigation systems. At the beginning of 2021 we started filling it with plants and we are now in full production.”

How to improve the quality of orchids
According to Van Steekelenburg, CosMic Plants produces their orchids with a longer growth cycle, and more space and light than most other orchid greenhouses, improving the quality. “Orchids need to have a certain amount of plant size and internal strength to produce a good amount of flowers. If you rush the growth cycle then you will produce orchids with less blooms. As we aim for high quality orchids, we decided to make the vegetative phase a little longer, meaning that the plants grow slightly bigger and stronger and will give more flowers.”

Canadian restrictions
CosMic Plants distributes their flowers to Canada and the United States. Van Steekelenburg explains that the Canadian restrictions have been very tight ever since the beginning of the pandemic, which is influencing their demand. “As most floral producers are experiencing, we have been noticing a much higher demand for our orchids since the pandemic. People were not going on vacation and spent their money on home décor instead. Especially when many are working from home, they are transforming their rooms into home offices and want flowers and plants to make the space more enjoyable. Here in Canada the restrictions have only very recently become a little more lenient, so we are expecting the working from home movement to remain for quite a while.”

The CosMic Plants entrance with COVID protocols 

A new demographic
Another positive to come out of the pandemic is a new generation of younger people being interested in flowers. “The whole situation has caused a new demographic to enjoy plants. My own teenage children are suddenly interested in plants when we go shopping, as they see them all over social media. It is great that they get more exposure to plants at such a young age. For years the industry has tried to promote plants to the younger generation, through school or campaigns, but nothing has ever succeeded in this as much as the pandemic has.”

Using container space optimally
A major challenge for CosMic Plants has been the skyrocketing shipping costs. “It is crazy how much more expensive it is to import materials at the moment. When shipping ceramic in sea containers, we are trying to adapt and make it as optimal as possible. Before, we could use more unique pots and we selected based on style, whereas we are now choosing shapes that allow for a higher volume of pots to be shipped.”

Shift in color popularity
Van Steekelenburg adds that there has been a recent shift in the popular orchid colors. “We provide a lot of our orchids for designers and event planners, who always need a lot of white orchids. Since the pandemic, events have been reduced and there is more personal consumption, so we notice that all bright colors are now in demand. White is a classy color that is always popular but we do notice that there has been a shift. It is difficult for us to react to such a sudden shift as orchid production takes such a long time of planning that we cannot just switch to producing more of a different color.”

For more information:
CosMic Plants Inc.
[email protected]