Innovations

Following up on the commitment to expand its capacities and knowledge in the field of biotech, on April 26, CIOPORA gathered more than 120 representatives of biotech research, commercial breeding and governments for a biotechnology-themed conference at ILVO Plant, Melle, Belgium. While biotech experts from the leading European research institutions delivered reports on the swiftly progressing technologies, legal specialists questioned whether contemporary IP systems could keep up with the biotech advancements by providing innovators with adequate incentives. The event served as a stage for defining the status quo both in biotech research and the surrounding regulatory matters, equally channelling the voices of science, policymakers and the industry in the search for viable solutions for the future. To provide a short recap of the event, two speakers share their thoughts on the conference’s main topics.

 Biotech: Scientist Talk

FCI: Dr. de Riek, you are the driving force behind the CIOPORA Conference on Biotechnology 2018. For you, what are the biotech trends to watch in the plant world right now?

Dr. Jan de Riek, ILVO Plant, Melle, Belgium:

The trends that emerged during the CIOPORA Conference on Biotechnology were centred around two items: the ever-expanding capacity in DNA sequencing and New Breeding Techniques.

We are observing DNA sequencing technology moving forward to the third generation and bringing high throughput and long-read sequencing within the reach of modern science. In the meantime, the sequencers have evolved from bulky machines to compact flow cells, often only the size of a flash drive. Although a handheld clip on a DNA analyser is not immediately in sight, one can start dreaming of it.

The gene editing, especially the robust CRISPR/Cas9 technology, opens the door to a directed mutagenesis, where specific mutations can be achieved by means of altering the genetic information. It appears to be a much cleaner approach than the conventional mutation breeding as only a few side-mutations should be expected in its process, which can considerably reduce the backcrossing work.

The vision for the future is that technology will be applied to knock out certain undesirable plant traits, such as the browning of apples (e.g. Arctic apples). Although very promising, some classic problems still need to be tackled to achieve precise results. To knock out a gene, it is crucial to know the specific target genes in the species concerned. Other obstacles include the availability of appropriate tissue culture techniques such as the regeneration capacity of plant protoplasts.

About: Dr Jan de Riek is the chairman of the CIOPORA Working Group Biotechnology. At ILVO, he focuses on molecular genetics and breeding research in ornamental and agricultural crops. He acquired his doctorate degree in plant biotechnology from the University of Ghent.

Biotech: Lawyer talk

FCI: Dr. Kock, in your speech at the CIOPORA Conference you mentioned that by avoiding collusion between PBR and Patents at any cost, the policy makers are crippling both systems. In your opinion, what solutions are needed to provide for equally effective protection for both new breeding techniques and the entire genomes?

Dr. Michael Kock, dr. kock consulting, Basel, Switzerland:

Today, legislators are employing two approaches to tackle the interface issues between Patents and Plant Breeders Rights: limitations to the protectable subject matter and exceptions to IP rights. This leads to solutions like the new Rule 28 (2) EPC, where the patentability of a plant is based not on its features, i.e. novelty and inventiveness, but on how it was made. This not only deviates from patent law principles but creates legal uncertainty as, in most cases, it is not possible to tell how a plant was made.

On the level of the rights, we also see a distortion to the detriment of the IPR holder, either by means of breeders’ exemption in patent laws or the currently discussed narrow definition for essentially derived varieties (EDV), which would render varieties with innovative new characteristics as non-EDV. While these limitations may be well-intended and are, at first glance, aimed at protecting future innovation, they also diminish the incentive for innovation and, therefore, are short-sighted and somewhat naïve solutions.

Instead of eroding or abandoning IP rights, efforts should be directed at turning the tide in the current IP systems from exclusivity towards inclusivity, i.e. from “exclusivity & value capture” to “access & benefit sharing”. Legislative changes should support such industry initiatives as the transparency database PINTO or the International Licensing Platform for Vegetables (ILP) with clarification of the compulsory licensing provisions, etc. This could lead to solutions which promote innovation instead of denying incentives to its pioneers.

About: Dr. Michael A. Kock is a founder of dr. kock consulting providing consulting services on Intellectual Property (IP) protection and related strategies. From 2007 to 2017, Dr. Kock headed the IP Department at Syngenta Crop Protection AG in Basel. He has a diploma in Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology. He is a certified European and Swiss Patent Attorney. Dr. Kock regularly lectures on IP and has published multiple papers on IP issues in plants in peer-reviewed law journals.

 

Photo credit:  Koen Van de Moortel/defottograf.be

 

BREXIT Parties

It took a year after the official triggering of Article 50 before we learned how Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) may be affected by Brexit from the partially finalized agreement establishing a framework for the entire Brexit process. Yet today, we are still far from having a complete picture. As a summary of the Brexit-themed report released earlier this spring by CIOPORA to its members, the present article provides an overview of the IPR-related aspects of the UK–EU “break-up story”.

On March 19, 2018, the delegations of the EU and the UK published a draft version of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). With some minor exceptions, most of the provisions referring to IPR have been agreed upon at the negotiators’ level, with only minor technical legal changes yet to come.

Dates to mark on your calendar.

One of the most important provisions of the WA is the establishment of the Transition Period which will begin on March 29, 2019 and end on December 31, 2020. During this period, the UK will formally cease to be a part of the EU, albeit the EU laws will remain in force and will continue to be applicable on its territory. Regarding the Plant Breeders Rights (PBR), the draft WA foresees that after December 31 all existing Community Plant Variety Rights (CPVR) will, without any re-examination, become comparable registered and enforceable UK PVR titles.

As to the pending applications, a CPVR applicant will have an ad hoc right of priority in the UK during the period of six months after the end of the transition period, while the date of priority of their CPVR application will be treated as the date of their PBR application in the UK.

Best case scenario.

For instance, if a breeder applies for a CPVR in September 2018 for a variety which was first sold outside of the EU in November 2014, theoretically, it will give them time until June 30, 2021, to submit an application before the UK PBR office without losing novelty. In such a case, the usual novelty period of four years (for most varieties) foreseen by the UK regulation will be extended to six-and-a-half years.

Don’t count your chickens.

Now, let’s have a look at another possible case scenario. A breeder files an application before the CPVO in one of the last months of the transition period, i.e. from July to December 2020. In this case, it remains unclear whether the applicant is entitled to a one year priority claim according to the UK PVP Act or whether the six month period provided by the WA prevails. Common sense suggests that the longer term should apply, however, applicants should not count their chickens until the WA is signed.

Further dilemmas.

Another aspect to consider is exhaustion of the right. Should the UK leave the European Economic Area, there is a possibility that the UK might abandon the system of regional exhaustion and come back to the system of national exhaustion instead.

Furthermore, as announced by the CPVO, after the WA enters into force, the UK offices will no longer be entrusted with DUS examinations affecting over 650 species that to the present are exclusively examined by the UK-based institutions. Despite the CPVO’s efforts, only half of these botanical taxa could by now be entrusted to other European examination offices. Again, it remains unclear whether the CPVO will continue taking over DUS reports from the UK examination offices after the end of the transition period.

Although the guarantee of CPVR title recognition provided by the WA is encouraging, there are still a number of issues that parties on both sides of the Channel have yet to tackle. At CIOPORA, we shall continue to closely monitor this process to guarantee an agreement that provides for a smooth transition and protection of breeders’ rights after the Brexit.

 Author: Micaela Filippo

CIOPORA

China is a rapidly growing market for plant breeders and the industry is just beginning to discover its true potential. With a government policy in place to modernize agriculture and a shift towards larger scale farming models, we can expect to see more and more demand from China for foreign plant varieties. At the same time, movement to more sophisticated farming models makes the Chinese market increasingly attractive. When it comes to IP, a well thought-out strategy is a must for foreign breeders operating in, or looking to enter, the Chinese market. This article highlights some points to get you started on your China IP checklist.

Protectable genera and species

At the time of writing, China offers Plant Variety Rights (PVR) protection for 344 genera and species. The Ministry of Agriculture lists 138 genera and species for protection while the State Forestry Administration lists 206. The respective lists are published on each department’s website and new varieties are periodically added to these lists.

The scope of the right

PVR in China attaches to the propagating material of the variety and covers the acts of propagation, production, sale and repeated use to produce propagating material of another variety for commercial purposes. Propagating material is broadly defined to include the whole plant and any part of the plant for forest crops and plant material or other parts of the plant that can be propagated for agricultural crops. Applying these definitions, it would follow that for some crops the scope of the right attaches to flowers and even fruits.

A farmers’ exemption is provided which allows ‘nongmin’ to self-propagate, self-use the propagating material of protected varieties without obtaining permission from or paying royalties to the breeder. The term nongmin directly translates into English as “rural person” but  is more often translated as “peasant” which suggests that the farmers’ exemption has a limited scope and does not generally apply to all engaged in farming. However, the exact scope is unclear and remains open to  interpretation for farmers of significant scale in terms of fruit and ornamental crops.

Some notable developments:

  • As of 1 April 2017, the Chinese PVR offices cancelled all official fees for PVP applications.
  • In 2018, the UPOV PRISMA online application tool has become available for lettuce and rose variety applications in China which includes a translation function of application data.
  • There are now three specialized intellectual property (IP) courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and 15 specialized IP tribunals across various provinces, responsible for PVR matters within their respective territorial jurisdictions.

Objectives for horticulture moving forward

Intellectual Property and Plant Variety Protection are developing quickly in China and conceptions about the impossibility of protecting and enforcing IP are now quite outdated. However, there is still room for improvement, especially for fruit and ornamental crops. In particular, the industry would like to see the following:

  • opening protection to all species and genera
  • clear application of the right to harvested material directly and per se, or otherwise in line with the application to harvested material under UPOV 1991
  • removal of the farmers’ exemption from vegetatively propagated fruit and ornamental crops
  • introduction of an essentially derived variety (EDV) concept where all mutants and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are deemed to be EDVs.

There has been talk about revision of China’s PVR regulations for some time. However, a number of developments, including the elevation of a number of PVR provisions into the recently amended Seed Law and advocacy from the seed industry during the Two Sessions (两会) meeting earlier this year, suggest that a new PVR law in China may be imminent.

CIOPORA will continue to closely monitor these developments and share information with the Chinese government about the requirements of breeders of vegetatively reproduced ornamental and fruit varieties.

 

Author: Alanna Rennie

CIOPORA PBR Overview

Amid the ever-growing global demand for plant varieties with improved traits and tapping into new production territories, the return on investment for plant breeders still falls short in many places in the world. As the only organization representing ornamental and fruit breeders worldwide, in regard to their Intellectual Property (IP), CIOPORA provides an account herein of the IP flash points around the world closely monitored by the organization.

China is the number one growing market for ornamentals and fruits. With a soaring consumption in the domestic market, Chinese producers are steadily improving their technical capacities to meet demand. However, the deficit of new and improved varieties prevents China from fully unfolding its enormous potential in horticulture. The Chinese government understands the need to provide better incentives in the form of enhanced IP protection to breeders in order to attract such varieties to the market and has been discussing ways to improve the national PBR regime. For some time now, CIOPORA has been supporting this process in China by sharing its views on the specific IP needs of vegetatively reproduced varieties including such solutions as a tailored application of the farmers´ exemption, stronger EDV concept and effective enforcement tools. Unless the breeders’ rights are effectively protected, plant innovators will continue to tread cautiously when it comes to commercialization of innovative plant products in China.

India is another vast market seeking modern plant varieties. Facing the need to protect the interests of ca. 700 million mainly small, subsistence farmers, the Indian Government finds itself in a tight spot when it comes to amendments of its 2001 Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers´ Rights Act. In March 2018, CIOPORA met with Indian officials and industry representatives advising on the tailored solutions for ornamental and fruit crops. Similar to China, the key PBR solutions in India include a balanced application of the farmers’ exemption, the establishment of an effective system of PBR enforcement, as well as a considerable expansion of the currently very limited list of protected species and genera. The latter also raises doubts as to India’s compliance with Article 27 (3) (b) of the TRIPS agreement, which requires the WTO members to provide effective IP protection for all plant varieties.

Shifting focus from Asia to Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico are at the forefront of global fruit and, to a lesser extent, ornamental production. Nevertheless, the PBR laws in these countries remain on the level of UPOV 1978, even though the states are parties to bilateral and multilateral agreements requiring their accession to UPOV 1991. Over the past few years, we have been witnessing a significant push by their contracting partners, including the US Government, toward the improvement of their respective domestic IP and PBR regimes. CIOPORA shares information with these countries on the minimum content of IP Protection according to UPOV 1991 and continuously stresses the benefits of tailored solutions for vegetatively reproduced crops.

On the African continent, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa are major horticulture players not providing for the highest standards when it comes to protection of plant innovations. While Egypt, majoring in fruit, is currently revising its PBR law to adhere to the international standard, the second largest rose producer on the continent, Ethiopia, having no PBR regime in place, is increasingly raising concerns among rose breeders.

CIOPORA considers a level playing field, in terms of IP protection for plant varieties, a crucial precondition for a fair global trade. We firmly believe that once improved, PBR will cease to be a hurdle and might, as well, become an effective tool for unleashing the full potential of the world’s horticulture.

Author: Dr. Edgar Krieger, Secretary General of CIOPORA

Komet Sales

I walked into the offices of Komet Sales in Medellín, Colombia, with an open mind and a blank note book. This, even though I know a good deal about the company and its growing influence in the Floral industry having followed the progress of the company owner and founder Alejandro Pérez. With a bit of floral experience and a degree in Information Technology, Alejandro started Komet sales 9 years ago and has never looked back.

There are two stories to tell here. There is Komet Sales the Internet based floral platform that, according to their website is: “A system that allows you to simplify processes, connect with your customers and achieve your goals in the floral industry”.

And then there is Komet Sales the Silicon Valley styled technology company where some 50, under 40-year-old, employees work in a work environment that is so unlike any I have ever seen.

Let’s begin with Komet Sales the Floral platform. Simply put this subscription-based system has finally pulled off what many other companies have tried to do before and failed. This includes this author. Fifteen years ago, I was president of a company called World Commerce Online. Turns out we were too early in the new internet world and we failed but many of the ideas that we and others had Komet Sales has succeeded in implementing and more.

Flowers are bought and sold several times before they reach the end consumer and all along the distribution path data is created and needs to be shared with trading partners. Historically this data was shared on paper or in files that needed to be input and reinput into various databases along the way.

Komet Sales platform works with growers, logistic companies, importers, wholesalers and even retailers via their branded K2K program, to seamlessly share this data. With very sophisticated programs Komet Sales can manage your sales, inventory, accounts receivables, e-commerce and more all the while protecting your company’s margins and confidentiality. Allowing floral companies to do what they do best, sell flowers and not try to become software developers.

One look at Komet’s impressive customer list and you can start to grasp the scope of how this platform has been embraced by some of the largest players in the industry. Komet Sales has five teams of employees to manage the ever-growing number of industry members that are subscribing to this service. Sales; Customer Success, Marketing, Implementations and Programing.

With this level of service, it is no wonder they now service over 140 accounts representing over 350 shops, or doors as they call them. If you are in the commercial flower business, then this is a program worth your time to investigate.

Komet sales the company is a case study in how to manage a business in very new and innovative ways.

To start one needs to look no further than the physical work environment. Komet is operated out of two large warehouse looking floors in a lovely part of Medellin.  There are no offices, just tables you can write on, computers and people all doing the days task in a very un-orchestrated fashion.

The teams work together and are measured by statistics that are displayed on large monitors hanging from the ceiling. From these screens team members can see the tasks and the level of completion among other statistics.  Alejandro explained that Komet Sales is the patient and the teams are the doctors, so constantly monitoring the vital signs is key.

For example, they measure the number of customer comments or concerns and strive to respond within 5 minutes. With each minute over 5 the screens begin to post sad faces and red flags which are taken very seriously by the Customer Success team.

A conversation with the very energetic Alejandro is like diving into a bowl of self-help, inspirational, psychological and success books. A ferocious reader he has applied many of the concepts that others have proven to work, and the results are easy to see as you watch the teams in action.

For sure not every company can operate in this very open work environment but there are many lessons that can apply.

Alejandro is a very hands-off owner and uses trust as a key component in his family first, management style. There are no time clocks, no set work hours, no limit to vacations, no dress code, and so much freedom that not every new employee coming from a structured corporate environment can handle lack of top down control.

Team leaders get a corporate credit card and are expected to use it when needed to accomplish a task. The task could be buying donuts for the team or toner if the printer, that they rarely use, needs it.

If a team decides that they should visit a customer or potential customer they need not seek permission from management, they are free to buy a ticket and make it happen. The teams also have the responsibility to hire and fire members. Alejandro only asks to review the exit interview to learn why but never second guesses the decision.

This makes the teams self-motivated to meet goals and cover for each other. While on vacation team members are forbidden to respond to emails or calls as their team is responsible to figure it out without them.

Looking around the room there are many anti-stress stations. Four Play Station tables, an entertainment area equipped with guitars, remote control cars, punching bag, a quiet area with two bean bags roped off where anyone sitting there is not to be disturbed.

Tuesday intercompany soccer, Friday music day……… I could go on and on but I think you get the picture of how a company can be managed in new ways.

Alejandro’s goal is for Komet Sales to become the standard trading platform for the Global floral industry. That is a big goal, but my guess is that he and his teams will make it.

Author: William Armellini

Royal Parks’

The Royal Parks project in London, to build one of the UK’s most innovative greenhouses, nears completion. The £5 million ‘super nursery’ project will replace the old dilapidated nursery in London’s Hyde Park to create a new, state-of-the-art nursery to grow almost all the flowers and shrubs needed for the eight London Royal parks within the 5000 acre Royal Parks Estate. The ‘super nursery’ is scheduled to open this month (April 2018) when it will start saving The Royal Parks over £70,000 per year.

State-of-the-art

“The state-of-the-art building is the first major UK glasshouse to incorporate technology that allows the roof to open and close dependent on the weather to help acclimatise young plants, so they do not have to be moved outside for hardening,” explains Greg McErlean, The Royal Parks Director of Programmes and Projects.

The huge 7,180m² glasshouse, built by Deforche Construct NV and incorporating technology from Climate Controls Ltd has been divided into 13 controlled zones, each operated by Climate Controls’ latest technology, which adapts the climate according to the needs of the plants.

Flexibility

“The facility will allow more flexibility for our parks’ teams to be able to grow different plant varieties needed for the displays – around 450,000 plants in total.” Mark Wasilewski, Park Manager, St James’s and The Green Park says: “Having our own nursery on site where we can grow our plants to order, rather than relying on a commercial nursery, gives us flexibility to make changes as we go along, for example there are times when one variety may not grow as expected – so we can go back to the nursery and ask for a different delivery. With the nursery on our doorstep we can also shape the size of the plants throughout the season, for example to ‘pinch out’ a particular plant to make it bushier. We can also plan for the unexpected – so we can replace plants, or if we have a chance to plant an additional bed we can call the nursery to pick and mix from what’s available.”

Green credentials

With sustainability at the forefront of the project, the design meets the highest environmental standards. Additionally, the majority of the materials from the demolished nursery were recycled.

Greg adds: “The nursery will include a rainwater recovery system and energy-efficient LED lighting throughout. We will be saving on heating costs with a more efficient system and we are also saving on transport miles.”

The nursery is already growing plants for this year’s bedding displays in The Royal Parks and work is afoot to save and maintain some of the heritage plants that have traditionally been grown in the parks over the decades.

Mark explains: “We can work directly with our growers to cultivate rare or old varieties of plants from cuttings of particular strains to keep these varieties in the parks. For example it will help us reintroduce old cutting varieties of geranium, like ‘Lady Derby’, ‘Caroline Schmidt’ or ‘Golden Harry Hieover’ – the old varieties we just don’t want to lose.

Other examples of plants we can cultivate could include varieties of fuchsias, Calceolaria ‘Gains Yellow’ and different abutilons such as ‘Canary Bird’. We can also experiment with new varieties – the new nursery will give us this flexibility.”

For more information on London’s Royal Parks visit https://www.royalparks.org.uk/

Author: Jean Vernon

Photo credits: The Royal Parks’

France

What on earth made BIOAGRUMES switch from flowering pot plants to citrus forcing, while also introducing organic plants with ready-to-eat fruit and leaves?

While working as a production manager in Provence, Frédéric Sérusier realized the potential of citrus and the lack of French production. Thus, he created his company near Angers in 1997 and began to acclimatize citrus imported from Sicily. In 2010, he made the first strategic shift to become the citrus production specialist in France and switched a portion of the production to organic in 2014. To this end, the company started to work with the San Giuliano French Agronomy research institute INRA in Corsica, known for its expansive citrus collection.

Today, BIOAGRUMES grows more than 100,000 plants, with 56 varieties of the citrus genus: orange, grapefruit, limes, clementines, tangerines, kumquats, combava, cedrate, etc. Both production and complementary imports from Sicily are marketed by Agrumes de Méditerranée, their sister company.

Company Strategy

The arrival of new majority shareholder Christophe Reineri in 2017 gave impetus to a new company strategy. “Our aim is to become the first European supplier of organic ready-to-eat citrus, in addition to Mediterranean plants for the high-end urban market: plants with fruit, but also leaves and flowers,” says Christophe. To achieve this goal, the company is working towards three goals:

  • Fulfill European food safety requirements to sell ready-to-eat products. Growing organically is not enough to claim that fruit, leaves or flowers are ready-to-eat. We have started implementing food safety measures with the objective of obtaining the MPS-fruit and Vegetable certification. We are also developing partnerships with Southern European growers equally committed to sustainability and food safety, either through GlobalGap or MPS-Fruit & Vegetables, to complement our product range.
  • Diversification is the second goal: BIOAGRUMES will continue diversifying its citrus collection but also develop a comprehensive range of edible organic Mediterranean fruit and/or leaves, like figs or laurel.
  • Innovation and securing our parental material: The company’s development plan includes the creation of a propagation unit and expansion into a new greenhouse. The propagation unit will allow BIOAGRUMES to come to market earlier, but also to implement new propagation techniques and grow species and varieties that are more cold-resistant, adaptable to northern markets.

Competitive Advantages

Although not located in Southern Europe, the company benefits from several competitive advantages such as unique niche market positioning, a wide range of product, excellent customer’ service thanks to its proximity to the market and, perhaps most important, the absence of the bacterial disease Xylella fastidiosa, which facilitates BIOAGRUMES to grow organically.

Development Prospects

Christophe is very enthusiastic about the company’s development prospects. “Our first contact at IPM confirmed the relevance of our strategy and leads us to be optimistic. I feel confident that our present choices will create value for BIOAGRUMES, our partners and the end consumer. Our brand promise is to offer high-quality, healthy and tasty products, perfectly suited to both ornamental and culinary usage”.

Author: Marie-Françoise Petitjean

 

Pöppelmann

Pots made out of plastic are not just an important part of modern plant production but can also be a useful marketing tool to showcase the latest developments in this field. Pöppelmann, based in Northern  Germany in Lohne  (Lower-Saxony), is well known for its TEKU®-products. The company produces cultivation systems and a huge variety of plant pots for the horticulture industry. It was founded in 1949 as a cork factory by brothers Joseph and Hubert Pöppelmann and is still a family-owned business.

In the spring of 1955, the brothers bought their first injection moulding machine which was their start into the plastics processing industry. Since then, the company, consisting of five production sites with 550 injection moulding machines, extruders and thermoforming lines, has expanded wildly. It is one of the leading manufacturers in the plastic processing industry employing more than 1,900 highly-qualified employees worldwide and exporting to more than 90 countries.

Coverpot

TEKU® is one of Pöppelmann’s four areas of operation. By continually keeping an eye on the market, the TEKU® division has an in-depth understanding of the industry and customers’ needs, a key factor for their product innovations and sustainable solutions. One of the newest products is the MDF Coverpot series which offers added value and is a marketing tool, as well. The attractive Coverpots fit perfectly around their other plastic pots and make it a very smart pot-in-pot system. The Coverpot has space for storing water at the bottom to reduce watering frequency when used in connection with the Waterwick™ Stick. The water level can be checked easily without removing the inner pot from the MDF Coverpot.

Design

The planting pot series MDF Coverpot offers gardeners attractive visual decoration thanks to the IML-process (In-Mould-Labelling). The pots come in many different designs, some inspired by annual holidays or gift days like Easter or Mother’s Day, others refer to special events e.g. this year’s FIFA World Cup. It is also possible to order pots with a custom design, depending on the quantity required. In addition, there is a special presentation tray available with lower rims which makes it easier to see the eye-catching designs of the pots at the POS.

Another recent introduction is PÖPPELMANN blue®, inspired by the increasing need for sustainable solutions in the industry. The blue resource-saving plant pots are made out of 100 percent recycled material. These plant pots close the raw material loop and the special blue colour makes it easy to identify the pots when they are at the recycling plant.

The RFID (radio-frequency-identification) technology is an invention that facilitates stocktaking by means of a radio frequency label that is attached to the product. Every label can then be scanned as a basis for further quick and easy use of the product data.

Partnership

A technology partnership between Pöppelmann TEKU® and potting machine producer Mayer is a further step towards innovations that offer solutions for growers. This close collaboration could help increase the level of automation needed to compensate for the lack of labour in the horticulture industry today.

To check the impact of innovations and the improvements of products, Pöppelmann TEKU® works with a market research company. The results of a recent test of different trays and plant pots, for instance, are not only used within the company but are also made available online, together with extra tips and ideas to the trade. These results show interesting ways to add value to a basic necessity such as a plant pot and even show how to turn it into a useful marketing tool.

Author: Anke Bührmann

Sustainability

Although some European growers still believe their African counterparts are not well-informed on sustainability, sustainable production is high on agendas in countries like Kenya.

 Nearly every Kenyan farm has any certificate their customers might request, an expert told us. So their eyes are open, although it is hard to see if these certificates are only an obligation or the result of internal conviction. But the certificates depend on solid checks which are then often double-checked by European retailers.

The sustainability issue in Kenya may be primarily market-driven, but the issue gets extra attention in production and transport. The variety of labels worries many Kenyans, too, and there is always a risk that retailers will put further demands on sustainability issues which would lead to more complexity and pressure on resources. Another risk it that growers won’t be able to fulfill every demand consumers or retailers request.

A daily, solid, checkable registration

Recently Royal FloraHolland’s Managers Sustainability & CSR visited Kenya to discuss sustainability issues. “We had excellent discussions. We were able to advise growers in the world of changing market demand and changing availability of certification and registration programs in Kenya and worldwide. It is important that they start or continue a daily, solid, checkable registration on the use of agrochemicals in the production and use of water. I am happy with the role the Kenyan Flower Council (KFC) takes, but this element isn’t yet completely in the KFC certificates, as it is in MPS certificates, for example. It is good that KFC and Kenyan authorities have created export licenses, but should KFC control these certificates themselves?”

“I know that many Kenyan growers are well under way on sustainability issues, but I know others aren’t. By the year 2020, 90% of the traded flowers and plants worldwide should be produced by the Basket of Standards of the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI). In simple terms, this means they have to be produced under label (see also page 37 of this magazine). This could mean flowers and plants produced outside the Basket of Standards would no longer be welcome at major outlet channels. FSI created the Basket of Standards to protect ethical growers from growers who don’t care about the environmental, legal and social implications of sustainability. The European market asks for sustainably-produced flowers and plants and consumers ask for transparency. It is time to create and implement it.”

Combining our push

“The planet is asking for it. We want it. And our clients are requesting it. That’s why Royal Lemkes is working on sustainability issues,” says Managing Director Michiel de Haan.

 Royal Lemkes is a large, Dutch wholesale company, specializing in plant sales to sizable European retailers. Michiel de Haan and Elise Wieringa (Quality Assurance & Sustainability) told us how their company approaches sustainability.

Bottom up.

“Some twenty Royal Lemkes employees from a cross section of the organisation looked at the issue of sustainability. We decided that our impetus should be what we want to achieve as a company, what our customers want and what the planet needs. So we formulated six themes. Three of them, climate, raw materials and biodiversity, are ecologically-oriented. The other three, well-being/health/society, labour conditions in the supply chain and our own employees, are people-oriented.”

 

Loyal to our roots.

“Royal Lemkes has a green heart with three ingredients: a grower’s history since 1882, lots of knowledge about plants and a sustainable heart. For our current owner, Cees van der Meij, and his predecessor, Hans Lemkes, sustainability is not just a word, it has always been a conviction. So we do not strive for maximum profits but rather sufficient profit to keep our company running and innovative. The impact of what we do for our employees, our customers and the planet is at least as important as our profit. This is who we are. Thus, our slogan is ‘Let’s plantify ® the future. Together.’

We believe in plants because they brighten up lives, strengthen the business of our trading partners and contribute to a sustainable world. Therefore, we feel privileged to work in this industry.”

Faster than the slowest one.

“We believe in cooperation and we also believe in leadership. If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. But going with the entire group gets us nowhere. So we create coalitions, for example with fellow wholesale companies Dutch Flower Group, Waterdrinker and FleuraMetz and with Royal FloraHolland. This collaboration helps us go faster. Together we have enough weight and ambition to get things going. We have signed a Manifesto to speed up the industry’s sustainability policy and organized sessions for growers in which we inspired and informed them, offered our help and asked for their commitment. We also participate in the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI). In 2020, FSI wants 90% of all flowers and plants to come from reliable sources. This means they have a certificate from the FSI basket of standards (GAP or equal, supplemented for producers from high-risk countries in Africa and Latin America with a social compliance certificate).

Sometimes plans do not actualize so it falls on ethical entrepreneurs to be transparent about this. Sometimes you cannot get things done on your own so you need to ask for help: from customers, suppliers, government agencies or NGO’s focussed on environmental or labour issues . We consider them partners, not enemies. They keep us on our toes. Sometimes we use their knowledge, sometimes they use ours. But in the end, we have the same objectives.”

A normal planning cycle.

“We did what any decent company does during a planning cycle: define the goals of all sustainability themes (for 2020), define plans and monitor our achievements. On the basis of our beliefs, we try to stimulate our customers to act sustainably and many of our customers stimulate us, as well. We have the privilege of supplying major European retailers such as IKEA, KingFisher and Aldi, who want to be frontrunners in sustainability. This is incredibly cool because we combine our push with their pull.”

 

Green Parc Energy, sustainability in practice

A very practical example of Royal Lemkes’ sustainability policy is apparent in Green Parc Energy. The roof of the Bleiswijk Royal Lemkes building is full of solar panels, generating electricity. The energy that is not used is stored in a huge battery next to the building. Employees can buy this electricity thus lowering their personal carbon footprint. To date, almost 50 of the 180 employees have signed up for this initiative.