For as long as Phalaenopsis have been driving out of the docks, Alphons Alsemgeest has been working at Maarel Orchids. The company holds no secrets for him, which is why he holds the position of KAM coordinator there. He is responsible for ensuring that the company operates to the highest quality standards and that employees in the company can carry out their work safely and with an eye for the environment. In his clear, positive manner, Alphons talks about the future vision of Maarel Orchids and its cooperation with Container Centralen.
“The orchid Phalaenopsis is rank, has shiny leaves and long stems with flowers. The nickname ‘butterfly orchid’, which probably sounds a bit more familiar to people’s ears, owes the potted plant to the shape of its flowers. I think it is a beautiful product to work with. The Phalaenopsis comes in different colours, such as pink, purple, salmon pink, white, yellow and orange, and is friendly to maintain. This makes the plant an asset in any home.”
Sustainability is our middlename
Twenty-five varieties of 12-centimetre Phalaenopsis with an average of two branches and 14 flowers are grown in the heart of the Westland. In that sharp focus lies the strength of Maarel Orchids. They grow uniform, large batches of pot orchids with a consistent quality that retailers can rely on. They achieve this by working in a fully automated and, above all, sustainable and organic way, which is a core value of the nursery. Alphons: “What we do now has consequences for later, we realise that very well. That’s why we make sure that the business processes are set up in such a way that the environment suffers as little as possible. We don’t use the word ‘sustainability’ to greenwash, we are really working on it and prefer to do so before it is imposed on us. By 2050, for instance, greenhouse horticulture must be off gas; we are really ahead of that target. Using 10% less gas every year is the goal. Being allowed to use the Planet Proof label is another example. Stichting Milieukeur (SMK) manages the quality mark, which is mainly known from food production. SMK applies supra-statutory standards that they adjust annually. In floriculture with the Planet Proof quality mark, there are not many parties yet, so it’s fair to say that we are forerunners.”
Society also demands it
“With the climate targets set on paper and the pressure from the gas sector due to the situation around Russia and Ukraine, we certainly have to deal with them, but actually we have been orientating ourselves for some time now where we can save on gas, electricity, water and the use of fertilisers and crop protection products. Not least because society and thus our customers demand it. We save water and fertilisers through 100% recycling. We can and do not discharge any more.
This already makes us much more sustainable than 5 to 10 years ago. We are in talks with fellow growers to learn from each other and follow courses on sustainability to gain knowledge on where to make even more environmental gains. We are also involved in projects for new energy-saving screen cloths, LED lighting, researching the possibilities of solar panels and thinking about the future of, for instance, heat pumps and hydrogen as fuel for our combined heat and power plants with which we generate our own energy. We use the resulting heat in the greenhouses. We feed the surplus of the generated electricity back to the grid, to supplement at times when there is a shortage of electricity generated from solar or wind energy.
With our annual production, we supply all Maasdijk households with electricity for two years, which amounts to over 4,000 households.”
Cooperation with Container Centralen
Container Centralen connects their customers through sustainable solutions for a greener world. RTIs (Returnable Transport Items), the plates and trolleys on which plants and flowers are transported, are the basis of their sustainable logistics. Alphons: “The contact with our account manager at Container Centralen, Andrea Louisa Wright, runs like clockwork, I don’t need to spend any more precious time or energy on that. I gladly take advantage of her invitations to participate in webinars or other meetings to share experiences. We obviously use the carts and plates as a means of transporting our products. Something does break down or get damaged there, which is generally solved well. But there is certainly also room for improvement and innovation. That’s why it’s good to always keep an open and constructive dialogue with each other, it’s very nice that we can!”