Only 5 people work in our greenhouse every day. Everything is processed in our industrial hall so that the Phalaenopsis can grow in peace in the greenhouse. Maarel Orchids has a large internal logistics system to deliver 115.000 plants every week. With 6 cranes, 2 trains, 8 robots, 6 cameras and more than 20 km of conveyor belt, we arrange our internal transport every day. With this automated system we keep that sharp focus in which our strength lies. A Phalaenopsis with an average of 2 branches and 14 flowers in a constant quality.
With such an automated system, everything goes automatically, right?! You would think so, but such a large system also entails a mountain of maintenance. That is where the Maarel Orchids technical team comes into play. Rogier and Samir ensure that the system can run every day. Our so-called “process guards”.
When Rogier started at Maarel Orchids in 2007, the construction of our location in Maasdijk was in full swing. Because there were many new developments in the field of automation during that period, this new greenhouse was built to provide space for this. This also created the need for a maintenance engineer. Now, 16 years later, the team is 2 men strong. About 2.5 years ago, Samir started working with us through a work-learning trajectory and is now in permanent employment.
Besides the planned maintenance, they do a lot of preparatory work for our energy transition and the replacement of the robots and machines. Some of these robots were already in use at our old location in De Lier. Last year our potting machine was replaced for an upgrade and you must have seen it on our socials, after 23 years our planting robot was allowed to retire and has made room for a new one. You can imagine that in a company that is completely dependent on its internal transport, these changes are quite drastic. Then it is nice to have a permanent team ready to ensure that all preparations and adjustments in the system run smoothly.
The market is in full swing and that leads us to reconsider the range to be cultivated for the future. You have to think far ahead when growing Phalaenopsis, because we have to order at least 2 years in advance. In addition to flower colour, number of buds and number of branches, we are increasingly looking at components such as temperature tolerance and protection against diseases and pests.
Because sustainable cultivation and the loss percentage have become important parameters, we take into account the fact that we grow varieties with which we can achieve a good end result with biological crop protection. Our cultivation regime is based on the reuse of irrigation water, so that we do not need to add ground or tap water and the collection of rainwater is sufficient.
In addition to the quality aspects, we must of course also ensure that our range is sufficiently versatile. We are therefore constantly looking for varieties with strong market potential.
For this reason, we are currently paying a lot of attention to how we remain attractive within the color palette, or should we become more attractive. Should we add more convincing, bright colors or is there a development in the pastel shades? Questions that we ask our customers in the search for the future assortment. Not only the color palette, but also the flower size and flower shape are up for discussion.
We ask our customers to provide input to make the right choices. Whereas in recent years we have sought improvement within the cultivated color mix, we are now asking ourselves whether we should not go for a more colorful whole?
In 2030, energy consumption in horticulture must be reduced by 45% compared to 2020. This is described in the energy covenant for greenhouse horticulture. At Maarel Orchids we are going to go a step further by achieving the target of 2030 in 2026. In the coming years we want to use 10% less energy every year. This will be a challenge, but certainly not impossible!
The first steps have been taken. In January, we installed two different dimmable LED installations. A Full LED and a Hybrid System. A total of 750 lamps!
Because these lamps are also dimmable, we can save even more on electricity. Thanks to our biosensors, we have gained much more insight into the light absorption of the Phalaenopsis during cultivation. This way we can dim the lights when they don’t need it.
We generate our own electricity. Thanks to this electricity savings, we also save on gas. During a full day of lighting, we emit 4% less CO2. In this way, this transition directly contributes to a reduction of our CO2 Footprint.
Because LED lighting emits much less heat, we have to compensate for the heat loss. We are replacing one of our existing screen cloths with a screen cloth that retains heat much better. This way we can manage the climate even better. Thanks to this new screen cloth, we also sort immediately ahead of the new light emission rules that will apply from 2025.
Thanks to dreams you make plans, and thanks to plans you take steps.
For Greenhouse Horticulture Netherlands, the energy transition means that we must have implemented 35% energy savings in cultivation before 2030.
Ambitious. But certainly not unthinkable.
In order to continue to guarantee continuity to our customers, we believe it is extremely important to go along with this development, and to anticipate in taking the next steps. The ultimate goal is to produce climate-neutral. The first steps towards a sustainable and economical Maarel Orchids are being taken!
Achieving goals through investment
We will already realize the first energy goals before 2026! We are very proud of that. This year we are investing in dimmable LED lighting. With this we create the right amount of light to allow our phalaenopsis to grow properly in a much more energy-efficient way. In addition to the advantage that it really blocks all light and therefore has no light emission, the Obscura screen cloth has the advantage that we can control the climate in the greenhouse even better and keep heat inside.
And then the solar panels. In the spring of 2023, the first 353 solar panels will be installed on our roof. With this we generate sustainable energy ourselves and the next plans for expansion are already in the pipeline.
Our dream? Being sustainable and climate-neutral.
Maarel Orchids will work with Biosensors from the Swiss company Vivent. We can use biosensors to monitor electrical signals that, if abnormalities occur, can indicate stress in the plant.
By means of electrophysiology, we can determine changes and link them to the cultivation data. This allows us to develop models to gain more insight into the crop.
This way we get real-time feedback when the plant experiences stress. Stress can be related to climate, irrigation, screens, transition situations from high to low irradiation and when using LED lighting.
We would like to gain insight into how the plant reacts to LED lighting. Especially given our recent step in installing LED lighting in various departments. The transition from vegetative to a generative crop will also play a role in how the crop responds to light. Ultimately, we want to optimize the cultivation techniques we apply and we hope that the results of these Biosensors will provide us with answers.
Lemkes BV organized a 2-day retail trip to the UK and we were invited to come along! With a well-filled program, René, together with Lemkes and other focus growers, traveled to Southampton early on Tuesday morning.
The first day was filled by various store checks, in order to get a good picture of the current UK retail market. Tesco, Sainsbury, ASDA, Homestead and B&Q were visited. The shelves were well stocked for the English Mother’s Day on March 19. Including our own plants! Together with Lemkes we did a nice Mother’s Day promotion in Ceramics. Always nice to see how our plants end up on the shelves waiting for the consumer.
Accompanied by Tim Clapp, head of range Kingfisher and Richard Egerton, lead byer B&Q, we were welcomed at Springfield on the second day. This is a 2.5 acres test site, unique in England. Here we got an insight into the various tests they perform. They test alternative organic fertilizers and conduct various tests to gain experience with peat-free substrates. They then share the knowledge they gain with the growers who supply them with plants.
They want to anticipate the expected legislation that will restrict the use of peat. This is extremely important to B&Q because they are the largest supplier of garden soil in the UK.
Their approach is inspiring, but also reflects the enormous importance of this transition.
We can look back on two inspiring and innovative days!
Maarel Orchids stands for transparent, long-term partnerships with our customers. Due to growth in production, the demand for employees has increased sharply. In order to reduce working hours per week and to efficiently search for motivated people, we have entered into a new type of collaboration this year.
Through a payroll company from Gelderland, we came into contact with our contact person Pavel Smantana in Romania. We already have several couples under contract with us, including Julian and Juliana.
”We ended up at Maarel Orchids through Pavel’s recruitment agency. We both come from Botoşani, a city in the north of Romania, in the Moldova region. We met while playing pool with friends and have been together for almost 3 years now. We wanted to work abroad for a few years to earn money and save for our own house.” Juliana’s brother has been working in the Netherlands for a number of years and because Julian has already worked in Zaltbommel for a period of time in 2017, the choice was simple, the Netherlands. Last summer was it time for the big move. My brother has now moved to Turnhout in Belgium, fortunately it is only an hour’s drive from Maassluis.
“At the agency we could see through short films what kind of work we would be doing at different companies before we actually left. I thought the orchids were very beautiful so that immediately caught my attention. We eventually chose Maarel Orchids because of the conditions and working hours. We are home around 4 o’clock every day, so we have time to do other things in the afternoon or just relax. We don’t work on Saturday, and if we do we get a day off during the week.”
Juliana works in the packing department and Julian is part of our technical department. ”We enjoy working in the teams and get on well with the team leaders of these departments, we can go to them with our questions. And if they can’t help us any further, we can always contact René Vissers. A while ago, for example, our central heating boiler broke down, this was immediately picked up and repaired”.
Our accommodation was arranged by Maarel Orchids. We now live in a terraced house in Maassluis, together with 2 other couples from Romania. We have to share the bathroom, kitchen and living room. That’s fine for now.”