Green Products has grown massively in recent years. There is, of course, no single factor that explains this, but the fact is that the tireless efforts to sell are paying off. "After years of investment, our distributors have really taken to it. You then see that they also start to enjoy it, and that's when things start to go fast," says director Jan Dons of Green Products.
The company started some thirty years ago with the idea of selling machines to make paper pots for reforestation. These plugs would then have to be put out in deforested areas. "That was the founder's idea," the men tell us. "We have grown in ornamental horticulture, but unfortunately have limited activity in reforestation."
However, the making of plugs has never stopped; quite the contrary. "Our company has grown in the past five years from 5 to 35 employees, new machines have been added, and we recently opened a new office and a large 3500-meter production floor. Six production lines run here, each of which can produce 80,000 plugs per hour in a two-shift system."
Jan Dons and Matthijs van den Berg. Not pictured: Onno Boeren
Green Product produces and sells plugs to customers worldwide - primarily in the Netherlands and Germany, but also in Belgium, France, the Czech Republic, Canada, Africa, China, and many other countries. These plugs are delivered to the grower's location under the name GreenPlug.
The plugs are made using a technique borrowed from the cigar and cigarette industry. A characteristic of the production process is that the peat is very wet when processed. "The peat always has a moisture content of 70% and is therefore very wet. We lead the substrate into a gutter, where the paper is folded around it, as it were. This way, you get a nice homogenous grading and you also reinforce the capillary effect within the substrate. The capillary action is lower with drier peat, making peat more repellent. The homogeneous filling of the paper pots and the good capillary action of the peat particles ensure a perfectly draining plug, allowing our customer to be in control of the moisture level of the plug."
The machines roll 60 cm cigarettes. These are then cut into 35 mm pieces.
According to the gentlemen, the advantage of Green Products' technique is that relatively moist soil particles are laid on top of each other like building blocks. "Our soil mixtures contain virtually no dust particles and have a relatively fixed fraction size. This method means that our GreenPlug retains an open structure; small 'air cavities' do not become blocked by dust particles or other material. Our GreenPlugs are dimensionally stable, so our client delivers a perfectly shaped plug (with original diameter) with a rooted plant to his customer."
Despite the fact that a number of companies choose to produce their own paperpots, the majority of young plant propagators continue to outsource the specialist work, Matthijs and Jan observe. "The GreenPlug has to be perfect in the base and, as a share of the total cost price of a young plant, has a relatively low cost (an unrooted cutting is much more expensive). However, no concessions can be made on quality or delivery reliability. Our vision is that a relatively expensive cutting shouldn't die because it did not have a good nutrient medium, nor should a production backlog (e.g. due to technical defects) result in the cutting lying around longer. Because we work with six large production lines, we always have a backup. Our technical colleagues continuously focus on making our production system run as efficiently as possible. That is our reason for being: reliability of supply."
At peak times, Green Products runs 50 pallets a day, or 250 pallets a week.
According to Jan, Green Products 'unburdens' customers through timely delivery, convenience, advice in the broadest sense, and guaranteed quality. "We prefer to go into the greenhouse with them and we like to think along with them." Several colleagues travel far and wide to do just that. "We set high standards for our raw materials. Together with our (soil) suppliers, we are very critical of the quality. We have at least 50 different mixtures available, mainly customer-specific. If a customer comes to us tomorrow with a specific wish, we will make an adjustment. This always meets the wishes of the plant and our customers down to the last detail. Customers can count on a perfectly homogeneous filled plug, often with millions of plugs per delivery."
At the Green Products office
"The demand for GreenPlugs continues to grow. A question for the future - we will probably discuss it more extensively at another time - is the demand for peat." The demand for sustainable products also continues to grow, the men see. For reasons of sustainability and social criticism, the market is increasingly looking at how it can produce without peat. "We are fully engaged in the development of peat-free products in order to obtain a product that can meet the requirements of legislation and the demands of customers, but that does not compromise on the quality of the plug. However, exactly how this will develop is still the question."