More and more customers want to see changing conditions translated into available screen cloths, the people at Phormium notice. That is why the company has been investing heavily in data collection and R&D for years, says Renko Schuil. "At the same time, we can always fall back on the reliable and durable properties of woven screens."
Runaway energy market
One of the challenges the horticultural sector faces -and a very urgent one at that - is the energy market. "The energy price increases, at rates which experts considered almost impossible, mercilessly expose the vulnerability of the sector. Regardless of the geopolitical solutions related to this and the developments regarding the energy transition, the sector can already take steps in the short term to contribute to the solution. After all, the business case for greenhouse horticulture companies suddenly looks very different."
Focus shifts from light to energy
For a long time, the focus of energy screens was mainly on light, especially for growers of greenhouse vegetables. Understandable, according to Renko, as energy does not cost much in relative terms and light has a major influence on production. "However, with the current energy prices, it is very possible that the focus will shift from light to energy. This is not dismissing light as unimportant, but rather looking at the relationship between light and the energy factor."
According to Renko, Phormium has "a unique offering" in the energy screen market, with its line of woven high-quality and sustainable screen cloths. "Durable in this context does not only mean that the cloths last longer, but also that the various properties remain at a high level over a longer period. One of these properties is energy savings. For instance: a woven fabric saves more energy than a knitted fabric and at the same time saves that energy for a much longer period, but lets in 1% or 2% less light. In the past, knitted fabrics were often chosen because of the light, but now the calculation can be very different. That 1% or 2% only applies when the screen is closed, not throughout the day. In addition, the light is also diffused, which has its advantages."
Learning more every day
It is not just energy prices that are causing this shift, continues Renko. By putting all their efforts into collecting data about the various canvases, and especially data with a higher degree of accuracy, Phormium is able to say more about its canvases. "Phormium has invested a lot in measuring equipment and knowledge in recent years. Every day we learn more about the properties of our fabrics, knowledge that we translate into the best offer for our clients. Phormium does not only rely on its own data but above all seeks cooperation with, for example, the WUR or research institutes. Collecting data is one thing, knowing what is being measured and calibrating the results is at least as important."
Not just energy
Phormium does not focus on energy alone; that would be very ad hoc, according to Renko. "We have been looking at trends and developments for a long time, and dealing with changes in the market in a planned way. For example, various systems that actively remove moisture from the greenhouse are emerging. The screen cloths used in combination with these systems may have completely different properties than conventional or regular screens, for example. There is also a trend in the area of climate. Despite the weather during last summer, summers seem to be getting warmer with more sunshine. This, too, means that customers will have different requirements for their screen cloths."
Responsibility as a producer
Call it Flemish modesty or healthy realism, but Phormium has never made a big deal about itself, says Renko. "The company thinks that there are already enough loud voices in the market, and we like to stick to the facts. As we learn more about our fabrics every day, our positions are strengthened. Our woven cloths are of value for greenhouse horticulture and come with product advantages that can be translated one-to-one to our customers' results."
And it does not stop here, as far as Phormium is concerned. The company sees it as its task and responsibility to link the knowledge it amasses to both existing and new products in order to help its customers move forward in the future as well.