Last year was exceptionally good for the ornamental sector. Meewisse Plants in the Netherlands sees it that way too. Sales and prices were both good for their bromeliads. However, there was more to 2021 than just that. The company indeed faced several challenges. "COVID-19, a whirlwind, we've been hacked, a snowstorm damaged the greenhouse, and now the energy crisis."
He can laugh about it now., but it severely tested the resolve of the company he runs together with Egbert Lanjouw, and Jan Meertens. Now, it's their busiest period as sales usually pick up after the holidays. The peak is around Women's Day and the various Mother's Days.
Ab van den Berg, Egbert Lanjouw, and Jan Meertens
With their combined experience, the three men know the market's pace like the back of their hands. Nevertheless, the current energy situation means they need to, again, be flexible. They are cutting back on lighting and lowering the heat."Bromeliads thrive at 21°C. We've turned that down by one degree."
"And we're using less light. Thus, it takes longer between propagation and delivery. That doesn't however mean that we stopped propagation. You don't want to do that, especially with these young plants. We still use a little bit of light there, and also when plants are almost finished," Ab says.
The growers are currently using less lighting to save energy. Both of their four-hectare locations have a CHP.
Regarding the external climate, Janaury 2021 has not been too bad for this bromeliad growing business. February 2021 was worse, albeit due to a different reason. It had snowed heavily, so more than a hectare of their greenhouse collapsed. It was all hands on deck to ensure that the remaining crop in the adjacent greenhouse did not get too cold. Needless to say, it was extremely tough. "We ran at 3°C for two days. Fortunately, we were able to keep most of the plants in pretty good shape. Yet, we had to throw away some of them, just like when COVID-19 hit."
Meewisse Plants' new one-hectare greenhouse. It is built on the site where a wide-coverage greenhouse collapsed.
A new greenhouse now stands on the site where the old one collapsed. "It's almost full again. We lost most of our deliverable plants in the collapsed one. We could deliver only a third of the plants that were in the greenhouse at the time. That also meant we had fewer plants for almost the whole of 2021. Also, we spent a lot of money rebuilding the greenhouse. So we couldn't build up the buffer we'd have wanted," admits Ad.
Ab is anyway very optimistic, especially now that things are certainly not going badly. "It's been hard work with long days, even on weekends. But we see opportunities again, so that energizes us." He is also very much aware of what needs to be done in the future. "We must install energy screens and replace some of the greenhouse roof. We're interested in LED lighting too."
A name change is a development of a different sort. Meewisse Plants is named after the deceased former owner. It will become BLM Plants, referring to the current board members' last names. "We haven't announced it very widely yet, but it's not a secret either. I used the new name at a trade fair in November. We're waiting for the gas issues to calm down a little before making a grand announcement." Ab is not concerned about the possible downside of a name change. "Apart from the name, nothing will change. Even the logo will remain as is."
Ab shows how long the hanging Tillandsias grow.
Change in pot size 12
Every day, Ad and his partners load their plants on four trucks along with plants from other regional growers. These go to two different Dutch locations. Much of the trade is happens daily and goes through exporters, while about ten percent is auctioned. "That's where you still get nice prices. It gives you something to hold on to, and you can keep an eye on what the market's doing."
The growers have identified the demand for Aechmeas in 12cm pots as one of those market developments. They want to focus more on that, at the expense of Guzmanias in 12cm pots. "The Aechmeas in the 12cm pots are in demand in Northwest Europe. Larger pot sizes are in demand in Southern Europe, for instance, in Italy," Ad explains.
"The pandemic hit us hard when it began. The business for these plants in larger pot sizes collapsed. However, as with the other unforeseen challenges, that difficult time is now behind us. Now only the energy crisis remains. Once that subsides, we can truly bring our new name into the market," he concludes.
The large Guzmania in 12cm pots will disappear from the grower's assortment. This was one of the last lots in week 2 of 2022.