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Opportunities in the floral industry to become sustainable

The growth of sustainable blooms

We could easily state that the flower industry is the most fabulous business story, or at the very least, the most beautiful. This modest cheerful good –flowers– have become a global industry. But in the middle of a global emissions crisis, all industries, including floriculture, have to do their bit to reduce their environmental footprint.

In the northern hemisphere, where the production of flowers takes place in greenhouses, growing ornamental plants and cut flowers is a short-cycle production process that involves large amounts of inputs such as fertilizers.

Projecting into the future, pioneering flower producers commit to sustainable growth by adopting new innovations such as GreenSwitch Original HG, the first liquid nitrate fertilizer from organic sources. And Hoogeveen Plants is an excellent reference for this commitment.

Florists are keen to become environmental-friendly
Experts in horticulture production, Hoogeveen Plants, strive to become environmental-friendly with a different approach to the plant production process. With almost four decades in business, they offer a complete range of climbing plants, organic fruit plants, bamboo, grasses, ferns, hellebores, and agapanthus. In addition, they were the first Dutch grower to step toward 100% organically grown fruit plants.

Commitment to sustainable production
This company has set clear deadlines for the implementation of the strategic transition to sustainable production. Furthermore, as an example to other businesses and due to responsibility towards their customers, they enabled the public to follow their sustainable progress online. 

"We eventually want to apply the sustainable pathway to our entire operations. We aim to be fully climate-neutral by 2030. This aim also applies to our fertilization, although there are not many affordable options in this area yet", says Eduard Pos, Crop Manager at Hoogeveen Plants.

Eduard Pos, Crop Manager at Hoogeveen Plants

Seeing manure as a diamond in the rough?
Eduard Pos was interested in sustainable fertilizers early in his career. During his internship at a plant nursery, he experimented to prove the benefits of using manure in the greenhouse horticulture industry. Even though the experiment hasn't given extraordinary results, Eduard remained interested in the idea. 

The GreenSwitch technology appeared
Four years later, Van Iperen International came at Hoogeveen Plants, and from that moment, things started moving toward more sustainable nutrition. Hoogeveen's management was introduced to GreenSwitch Original – the first liquid nitrate fertilizer. These circular fertilizers, explicitly produced for greenhouse horticulture, are made from liquid digestate, a residual product left over after manure fermentation. 

GreenSwitch Nitrate- a new way of producing circular fertilizers out of animal manure 
The technology developer is the American research company PureGreen Agriculture. In the summer of 2020, Van Iperen International, Dutch producer of specialty fertilizers, and PureGreen Agriculture built a production unit in Hardenberg. After an initial pilot, a second one was launched in April, with Hoogeveen Plants as the first customer. 

"I see GreenSwitch Nitrate as one of the potential solutions to the nitrogen problem and to reducing greenhouse gas emissions," says Marc van Oers, Director of Innovations at Van Iperen International. "We can produce high-quality liquid nitrate fertilizers with very low CO2 emissions here. Furthermore, by turning the nitrogen-rich digestate into useful fertilizer, we are also improving the revenue model of biodigester companies. That also helps the livestock sector."

The GreenSwitch Nitrate Factory in Hardenberg, NL

The resulting product, GreenSwitch Original HG, is a high-quality Nitrate fertilizer suitable for substrate-based cultivation, open-field fertigation, and foliar application.

Intensive monitoring over trials
Both parties are carefully monitoring the trials at Hoogeveen Plants. They conducted the trials in two crops, hellebore and clematis, across a total of 1.5 ha. "We are working with two tanks per crop. So first, we fertilize half of the crops in the trial with the conventional recipe and the other half with the organic fertilizer. Then we will keep a very close eye on the plants," Pos says.

First impressions 
"I am delighted to see no difference in yield from using GreenSwitch Original compared to conventional nitrate fertilizers. I think it will work. This transition finally became a reality after my internship assignment and on a much larger scale. We had a clear goal at the time, but as a company, we had no idea how animal manure could be used as a high-quality fertilizer in horticulture. To advance sustainability, you always need larger supply chain partners to handle the technological development side".

Marc van Oers, Director of Innovations at Van Iperen International 

In conclusion, Marc van Oers added: "Van Iperen opens up a new road map led by innovation to make conventional agriculture more sustainable. By partnership across industries, we can bring new opportunities to continue innovating with projects such as GreenSwitch."

For more information:
Marc van Oers
Van Iperen
[email protected]