On the cusp of a year ago, Van Geel Orchids from Erica, Drenthe, announced it would stop growing orchids as a result of high energy prices. But that is not how it happened, because now, exactly one year later, the grower is back at the Trade Fair and how: with a new look, under the new name Van Geel Group, with orchids and with plenty of news and plans for the future. In the following, owner Martijn van Geel speaks more about it.
Jorrit van Geel, Judith Springer and Martijn van Geel, last week at the Trade Fair in Aalsmeer.
The decision to continue with phalaenopsis after all came soon after the earlier decision to quit. “For our modern, still new greenhouses, we were looking for a high-quality product with good prospects for the coming years. What do we like, and what are we good at? That is orchids. Moreover, the gas price started to fall, and the selling price of the final product increased due to the many fellow growers who quit.”
However, phalaenopsis still accounts for only 60 percent of the cultivation area. After starting with a new layout and routing, Van Geel decided to use a separate section of an old greenhouse for extended propagation. “This way, there is room for a cutting buffer, and we make optimal use of the ratio of surface area between propagation and cooling. Last but not least, it also allows us to grow the plants for three weeks longer, which will further increase quality.”
But what to do next with the empty sections of the greenhouse? “We wanted to increase our production during the period of the year when demand is highest,” Martijn explains. A solution to this presented itself thanks to Floricultura. “They asked if we wanted to grow half-grown Halaenopsis. After a bit of persistent questioning and sparring, we decided that we would then prefer to grow them fully ourselves. This eventually led to 20,000 extra plants a week between weeks 5-19. And due to lack of quick alternative product-filling, we will do the same again in 2025.”
Yet with that, a significant part of the older greenhouses still had no destination. “Because of all the hectic activity and changes, there wasn’t really time to start testing things either. So people were quick to say that we would probably go back to 100% phalaenopsis soon, but because of the difficulty of making the older greenhouse sustainable, that didn’t seem sensible to me for the longer term. We didn’t want another scenario like last year, where you just don’t know what to do at all.”
And so he came to bromeliads. “In our search for new crops, we came across several bromeliad types during a discussion with customers. In consultation with Waterdrinker, OZ planten, Hamiplant, and breeders Bak and Deroose, we were able to put together a range. In January 2024, we will start with Achmea and Tillandsia, which will then be available from the beginning of 2025.”
Van Geel wants to start a test center in one department with other crops that have not yet made the cultivation plan. On the one hand, to experiment and be able to scale up immediately if similar situations arise around energy prices or other disruptions, and on the other hand, to have more variety of plants in the company shop that is still running well locally.
Spurred on by the extremely high energy prices, the company has already managed to reduce its energy consumption per plant by 25-30% over the past year, mainly by lighting less and using slightly lower temperatures. “What was previously not thought possible suddenly turned out to be possible with these energy prices,” laughs Martijn.
Van Geel also made several investments, including a water-cooled dimmable LED light fitting from Oreon. “Thanks to water cooling, the LEDs get less hot and achieve higher efficiency. The water heated by the LEDs then flows through our old cooling blocks, and the air is blown under our tables via trunks. By doing this, we create extra activity and desiccation that you would otherwise miss a bit when replacing SON-T with LED. We installed 185 μmol in all our departments, about 65% more than we had. This allows us to dim more when the power is expensive and give more when it is cheaper. So, at the end of the day, we still get the right amount of light for optimal growth. To control all this properly and operate it optimally, we have also invested in Hoogendoorn’s new IIVO climate computer.”
To save even more, Van Geel wants to grow ‘denser,’ or fewer gaps with the cloths. The risk is then moisture accumulation, which is why it was also decided to invest in Drygair. “These machines use electricity to make the air drier and even create a bit of heat in the process. And because we want to keep the screens more closed anyway, we are also going to replace the energy screen with one that insulates 40% better than the current one.” All in all, through all the measures, the company expects to eventually achieve energy savings of 50% per plant.
Besides phalaenopsis and (soon) bromelia, Van Geel also has a chrysanthemum nursery.
Jorrit van Geel & new house style and website
Finally, two pieces of news. The necessary changes have taken place in the composition of the family business itself. Partner and brother-in-law Johan Booster has decided to retire to take up other challenges, while on the other hand, Jorrit van Geel, the youngest son of founder Rien, has just joined. He will focus on sales and other commercial tasks in the coming period.
Finally, all the new developments also called for a new corporate identity and website, which were launched at the beginning of this month and presented at the Trade Fair, obviously with all the changes discussed above.
For more information:
Van Geel Group
Martijn van Geel