Coop Day makes its debut at Royal FloraHolland
Over 700 attendees were briefed on the future of Royal FloraHolland

Author: Ron van der Ploeg / Photo: VRBLD Photofilm

NAALDWIJK, Netherlands: Royal FloraHolland’s inaugural Coop Day took place on 16th December, 2019 under the theme of ‘A blooming future’. Over 700 member growers, floral wholesalers and auction reps gathered to be briefed on the future of Royal FloraHolland, its plans to reduce plastic products and packaging, its efforts to calculate the environmental impact of growing plants and flowers and the logistical challenges the cooperative faces to keep its machine well-oiled.

The afternoon opened with a panel discussion with moderator/sports reporter Hélène Hendriks inviting Royal FloraHolland CEO Steven van Schilfgaarde,  bromeliad grower Wim Koolhaas of LKP Plants, Alstroemeria grower Karolien Tesselaar of Tesselaar Alstroemeria and floral wholesaler Koen Heyl of Bloemenhandel W.K. Heyl jr. B.V. to answer questions such as: How does the future of floriculture look?, How will digitisation impact the industry and what are the sector’s sustainability goals? If there was something to remember from this thought provoking discussion it was that disconnecting the price setting from the logistics process is only a few steps away.

By 2021, nation-wide auctioning will use one national virtual auction clock which is not affiliated to any branch whether it is Aalsmeer, Naaldwijk, Rijnsburg or Eelde with buyers receiving their products to their location of choice. Ultimately, the scenario of a ex-work (read ex-nursery) auction, where flowers and plants are sold from the farmyard will come true by 2022.

Representatives from the ornamental horticulture industry were also given the opportunity to better understand Royal FloraHolland’s commitment to the environment. In their interactive session the auction’s sustainability manager Piet Briët and Alstroemeria grower Karolien Tesselaar from Luttelgeest explained that a standard method to calculate the environmental impact of growing plants and flowers is underway and has been administered EU funding. A draft methodology will be ready this spring with the final standard being in place by the end of 2021. Hortifootprint, they say, is “something that the market wants”. “Programmes to measure and reduce product carbon footprint are gaining momentum. It won’t be long before retailers will refuse to buy flowers and plants if they are not carbon-labelled.”

Tesselaar believes a carbon footprint label offers growers the opportunity to engage with their customers, to build their company’s reputation as a leader in sustainability, while it can also improve financial results as it can lead to important cost savings in for example the use of gas and electricity. In turn, growers will need to spend time and energy for identifying which activities release greenhouse gases (crop protection, heating, cooling, transportation, substrates, packaging, lighting etc). Once, activity data are collected the carbon footprint must be calculated, reported, tracked and verified. Lending growers a helping hand is Benefits of Nature (benefitsofnature.eu), the organisation which is leading the way in Hortifootprint.

Royal Floraholland’s consultant logistic means offered his perspective on use, reuse and recycling of plastics in the ornamental horticulture value chain.  On 21st February 2019, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure concluded a Plastic Pact with 75 companies, including Royal FloraHolland. The Dutch Plastic Pact is a voluntary agreement led by industry groups committing to increased recyclability of packaging materials. Royal FloraHolland already has reached two of the Pact’s four key goals, that is, ensuring that all plastic packaging is 100% recyclable, reused or composted by 2025 and that per company all plastic products must contain a minimum of 35% recycled plastic on average. However, about the remaining two goals – in 2025 using 20% less plastics than in 2017 and securing that a minimum of 70% of all single-use plastic products and packaging much work is still to be done. The biggest challenges the auction faces is in transport packaging which needs to be reduced by 20%, Duijdam says citing less heavy plant trays, multi use plant trays (Florentino trays) and non- plastic plant trays as possible solutions. Currently around 50% of single use trays are recycled and in order to reach the required 70% level more collaboration with supermarket chains and supermarkets is needed as in the business to consumer waste flows plastic packaging larger than 5 litres and carbon black pots end up either on the landfill or are burned.

Yme Pasma’s session on smart logistics was a good opportunity for growers and buyers to discover how Royal FloraHolland is taking up the ever-increasing logistical challenges in the medium to long term. He cited speed and transparency, small, last minute orders and flexibility being the most important challenges. The auction’s answer is fulfilment which incluces supply storage processing and delivery of products. A new service for example is stock and order picking. The stock goes to a royal floraholland location close to the buyers. as such every grower can quickly and efficienctly respond to what his customers wants. and we take care of the grower’s logistics.”

Royal FloraHolland’s first Coop Day is set to become an annual celebration of the co-operative and has replaced the auction’s Annual General Members’ Meeting which became obsolete since the auction changed its governance structure by installing a Members’ Council. Its goal is to increase awareness of Royal FloraHolland as a cooperative, to strengthen the collaboration with members and to highlight its goals and objectives.

The inaugural Coop Day coincided with a letter of protest to the chairman of the Member’s Council and signed by a group of angry growers who joined in the Flora Futura protest group. They disagree with the cooperative’s decision to abolish the physical auction clocks and to digitise all orders to hit 100% digital by the end of this year.  Another decision, to make eco certification compulsory has met fierce backlash with some growers calling for action via facebook.