“Sustainable growing requires a sustainable substrate”

AIPH will moderate a panel session at GreenTech to discuss sustainable growing media solutions and industry readiness. The session will take place on Thursday, June 13, at 10 am at GreenTech RAI Amsterdam.

The panel session will delve into the topic of sustainable growing media. It will explore the industry’s response to this topic, the challenges it poses, and the innovative solutions being developed.

Gracie Barrett, Technical Manager (Trials and New Product Development) at the Farplants Group in the UK, will be one of the panel speakers. She has spent her career focusing on the interactions between plants and substrates, particularly in the context of sustainable growing media. Her research on peat-free substrates has emphasized the importance of understanding the distinct properties of different component materials and the challenges of inconsistency and nutrient leaching.

The Farplants Group is one of the UK’s largest wholesale ornamental plant growers, producing approximately 11 million container plants annually. The group has been trialing peat-free substrates for two decades and has built up experience in peat-free growing. Since joining the group in 2017, Ms Barrett has used her technical knowledge to help the group transition to production-scale peat-free growing.

Ms Barrett says, from her own experience at the Farplants Group: “The substrates we use are predominantly wood-based, and a reasonable proportion of our crops are now final potted into peat-free substrates. Most of our products will be potted peat-free by 2026. More difficult crops with longer production cycles (like ericaceous subjects) may take a little longer. I think that, overall, the UK industry has been working very hard to transition away from peat. The import of young plug plants from countries where peat is still widely used in propagation materials remains a significant barrier for many UK growers in terms of producing 100 per cent peat-free plants.”

Mr Nedeljko Basic, Director of Portfolio Management at Kekkilä BVB, will also join the panel. This Finnish company is celebrating 100 years in growing media, in particular peat.

Another panellist will be Mr Van Nguyen, a peat specialist at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, who will consider the issues surrounding this subject, the sustainable growing media options for the future, and how this will affect the future of production.

The final panellist is Mr Henri Potze from Greenhouse Sustainability, a company seeking to help businesses measure and manage their environmental footprint.

Panel participants

• Mr Tim Briercliffe – Secretary General, AIPH (panel chair)

• Ms Gracie Barrett – Technical Manager, Farplants Group

• Mr Nedeljko Basic – Director, Kekkilä BVB

• Mr Van Nguyen – Peat Specialist, Wageningen University & Research

• Mr Henri Potze – Owner and CEO of Greenhouse Sustainability

Mr Briercliffe commented, “The challenges of reducing the use of peat are well understood by growers. This panel will look into the solutions being developed and will explore the real-life experience of growers making this change.”

AIPH invites all those in the horticulture supply chain to discuss the path towards sustainable growing media at the panel session on the Vision Stage at GreenTech Amsterdam on Thursday, 13 June, from 10:15 am to 11 am.

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