In the autumn of 2017, we expanded our greenhouse by 25%. As a result, our plant production has increased too. In fact, the number of plants we produce has doubled, because we’ve switched to smaller pot sizes. We’ve started to purchase smaller propagation materials – we’re now buying once-transplanted bromeliad plugs. We cultivate them for another four months, before transferring them to either a 10-cm or a 15-cm pot.
Last March, we decided to buy a potting machine, a big-bale breaker and conveyor belts in the Netherlands. They were delivered in June, but not quite ready to be used. That’s because of the power we get here (110V, 60Hz). Our electrician had to order a 380V, 50Hz inverter. By September, everything had arrived, so it was time to hook it all up and do a test run.
After a day of tinkering and the help of some YouTube videos and a manual we found on the Internet, we got the system working. Initially for 15-cm pots, and after that also for 10-cm pots. It’s cheaper to buy compost in big bales than in bags. Both transport costs and the costs of packaging materials are much lower. Labour costs will go down as well, because we can pot more plants per hour.
In the meantime, we had also ordered pots and compost from the Netherlands. A container was shipped to Canada by boat. This involves multiple parties. The Dutch supplier, the carrier that takes the order to the harbour, the shipping company, Canadian customs, the broker who takes care of the paperwork, CN Rail and finally, the carrier that transports the load to our front door.
If everything goes according to plan, the container can be delivered within four weeks. This time however, our container was checked by customs. For $1,500, the entire container was emptied and checked for illegal goods. The next thing was that we had to go and ask the Ministry of Agriculture whether we could import the compost. There was no problem with that, but someone at customs forgot to remove the order to seize our goods. As a result, the carrier couldn’t load the container, while the broker couldn’t understand what the problem was.
Eventually, we felt so desperate that we picked up the phone ourselves one Saturday, and that’s when the problem got solved. The Tuesday after that, our container was loaded onto the lorry. All in all, the delivery time of our order was four weeks longer than expected. I’ve got to add that we’re used to slightly longer delivery times here in Canada. That’s why we always try to order on time. But having to wait for your order for eight weeks is extreme, even by our standards!
Angelle van Kleef,
Grower of potted plants in Ontario, Canada