The Van der Weijden dynasty in Kudelstaart has been cultivating three generations of Phalaenopsis orchids, according to Ludvig Svensson's article. The current owner Lennard continues the policy of his father Sjaak by growing as sustainably as possible. Phalaenopsis, even completely organic, has been on the market for about six years. Thus, having 'green fingers' is no longer enough to run a company like GreenBalanZ. With the acquisition of a breeding company in 2017, the area is 10 ha, and approximately 4 million Phalaenopsis go through freight forwarders to customers at home and abroad annually.
Lennard studied Agricultural Economics in Wageningen and then went to work at Rabobank. He joined the company 21 years ago. "It certainly helps to have a good education, but it is not a guarantee of success," Lennard begins. "Through the growth, the company has grown. I think of myself as an entrepreneur more than a grower. You have to have knowledge about many things: It's about leadership, delegating well to your employees, and setting up a good marketing plan. You have to be seen amid the orchid violence."
As with many other flower and plant suppliers, COVID-19 put GreenBalanZ out of balance. Fortunately for Van der Weijden, the pandemic not only brought a lot of cultivation, but flowers and plants also found their way into people's homes.
Selling bio Phalaenopsis is a challenge
What does the consumer buy? You would say in a world that produces more and more organic products customers also buy organically grown Phalaenopsis. The reality is different. GreenBalanZ now grows about 500.000 biological Phalaenopsis out of a total of 4 million.
"It is quite difficult to sell this product because it is a few euros more expensive than the conventional one. We work with organic manure, which is why the plant grows a little slower. The cost price is, therefore, higher, and we take that into account. What we have learned is to sell non-conventional and organic orchids in a shop. The consumer then often opts for the cheaper variant."
GreenBalanZ clearly states on the packaging material that the orchids have been organically grown, but the market still rises and falls: "It is not growing fast, I am realistic about that."
Heat and cold from the bottom
Father Sjaak started making cultivation as sustainable as possible decades ago. "My father had fun scouting the crop, so he had to use fewer chemical pesticides. He started step by step, and now we only use organic crop protection," says Lennard. Although it is important to do everything as green as possible, it must all come out economically. "It's hard to be green when you're red, I read somewhere. You can be very romantic in that, but you also have to keep running your business."
Under its greenhouses, which contain a double-screen package, are two springs (aquifers / ed.) 300 meters apart. One is used to store heat and the other cold. "With heat pumps, we bring the heat from the greenhouse to the hot spring in the summer. In the winter we heat the greenhouse with it. We store the cold in the other source, which we use to cool the crop in the summer, as the Phalaenopsis needs cold in the summer to bloom. As a result, our gas consumption has been reduced by 1.1 million cubic meters.
And he is not done yet: "In the context of energy saving, LED is a real option for years to come. We will also continue to make the packaging and trays more durable. Sustainability is not a container concept here: I want to leave the globe better for the next generation. It makes me feel good."