What Caught Our Eye This Week (Week 40 and 41)

Posted by Suzanne McKee on Oct 15, 2016 1:59:02 PM

Here's our recap of what was interesting and impactful in the world of hort this week. 

How Global Suppliers of Unrooted Cuttings Are Working To Improve the Pipeline
As seen in GreenhouseGrower by Laura Drotleff

SupplyChain.pngGary's View: My work history as President of Fischer USA (1995 – 2007) and with Syngenta as the head of their vegetative supply chain for North America, Europe and Asia (2007 – 2012) has given me interesting insight into the requirements necessary for a consistent and reliable supply of cuttings.


The article appearing in the Oct. 13th Greenhouse Grower on, “How Global Suppliers of Unrooted Cuttings Are Working to Improve the Pipeline” points out several of the challenges cutting producers have faced, and continue to face, supplying quality, disease-free cuttings. Additional challenges continue to mount with restrictions in pesticides and easing of import restrictions on beneficial insects.

However, one key point missed in this article is the importance of maintaing the cold chain of distribution. While transporting live goods it is imperitive to maintain an unbroken cold chain (an uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities which maintain a given temperature range). Doing this while keeping costs reasonable is essential to success. 

As head of the vegetative supply chain for Syngenta it was obvious that the best distribution channels to major markets was North and South, not East and West.

  • Africa ---> Europe
  • Mexico, Central America and South America ---> US and Canada

Shipping cuttings from Africa to North America always involved one plane change and then a hand off to FedEx upon arrival, equating to at least one extra day in transit and all at a much higher cost. Many times the transfer in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris or other major city missed the connection and the shipment encountered another day’s delay, futher stressing the cold chain. Any delay as they say “takes the shine off the apple”. This is why Danziger has built new cutting production in Central America.

Maintaining the cold chain is the one overriding factor in delivering quality cuttings, not speed. Enormous investments in packaging, ice packets and expedited delivery are made to ensure quality but increases costs. One producer, Vivero International, has developed refrigerated truck delivery for the peaks for their own production and contracted production for Syngenta Flowers and Ball. By not breaking the cold chain delivery, cuttings can handle a week by refrigerated truck instead of 2 day expedited delivery. Resulting in a better quality cutting to the grower.

Spreading the peak has always been a challenge mostly self-inflicted by accepting orders for weeks where producers know they are already over sold but not wanting to lose the order. At Fischer we were able to spread the six week geranium peak to ten weeks with new systems and strong policies on availability. No order could be accepted if there was no availability and the grower needed to order the week before or after – thus spreading the peak. The benefits were huge in reliability and quality by not over harvesting in any of the peak weeks. This was a difficult policy to accept for Fischer Europe but after two seasons they also saw the benefit.

What Consumers Say It Takes To Get Them In The Door [10% Project]
As seen in Greenhouse Grower by Carol Miller

Suzanne's View: I very much appreciate this article as it gets to something that has bothered me for awhile, we put so much effort and energy into the varieties we select and the efficiencies all along the supply chain but oftentimes things fall short at retail. There are many companies out there working to bridge this gap but so far I haven't seen it implemented well enough in many of the garden centers that I visit. I would like to see a study take it a step further and look at how we, as an industry, can really help to get the consumer excited about gardening again. People love flowers, it is our job to make sure they know what will work for them so they become successful gardeners and keep coming back to the store. We need to make this easy and fun and I believe that will be the ticket to more success from breeder through consumer. 

We put a lot of this on the shoulders of the retailers but we should all take responsibility in working together to get people back in the stores. There are some great consumer brands doing a lot for this but so much more can be done in terms of retail layout and ease of buying. I look forward to see what innovations we can come up with in the future.

Altman Buys Plug Connection
As seen in Acres Online by Chris Beytes

Gary's View: Plug Connection was one of the first suppliers to sign up with ePlantSource. I met with Tim and Nicole during the 2013 Spring Pack Trials and Tim was immediately open to the new concept of an eCommerce site for growers.

Plug Connection has been one of our most reliable suppliers and as Ken Altman pointed out, they offer a very diverse product line, including grafted vegetables. This is a great opportunity for both Plug Connection and Altman. I only hope it does not become a loss for the many growers who have become dependent on them for supply of their young plants.

The size of Altman’s finished production requires an enormous supply of young plants and it would be easy for them to consume Plug Connection’s entire production. If Ken Altman sees Plug Connections current market of young plants as another business opportunity then no worry of losing a supplier. However, if he sees it as a means of self-supplying Altman Plant’s requirements then there is cause for concern. Only time will tell.

That's a sample of what we found newsworthy and interesting. We'd love to hear about what caught your eye too. 

Topics: Professional Greenhouse Grower, Retail Garden Center, What Caught Our Eye

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