Canadian grower Neil van Steekelenburg:

’It was time to expand’

What are you doing at the moment?
‘I’m at my climate computer; it’s actually a combination of a climate computer and a regular computer. I’m sending some emails to Taiwan, to order new varieties of Phalaenopsis that I would like to trial next year. And my brother Mike and I have bought a new company, which is also located in Beamsville, a little closer to the centre. We will officially be the owners on 1 June 2016. It’s a 10-year-old Venlo greenhouse, and it’s exactly what we would have built ourselves if we were to construct a new greenhouse.’

Are you expanding?
‘Until recently, we owned 0.8 hectares, and will now acquire an additional 2.2 hectares, but it’s not all growth. We’ve been renting space from another company for the production of Phalaenopsis, and we will move some of this production to the new greenhouse. Besides, the plan is not to entirely fill the new location; instead, we intend to temporarily rent out half of the greenhouse. We think it’s better to expand at the same pace as the market: to grow what the market asks for, not to flood it. In the Netherlands, there’s a large flower auction that can absorb a lot, but we don’t have an auction like that in Canada, which is why we look at the market differently. At the moment, we are the biggest supplier for our auction, but if we start to grow three times as much, they really won’t be able to handle what we grow.’

In the wake of the expansion, will you attend FlowerTrials?
‘Yes, I’m planning to visit the four major suppliers, Floricultura, Anthura, Sion, and Bremkens, plus an additional two smaller nurseries. I’m eager to see the innovations and decide which varieties I’m going to trial. I like to stay informed and ensure that I’ll have new varieties in my assortment in future. I will also visit some colleagues in the branch.’

Will you visit GreenTech?
Yes, I’ll pay a quick visit as I did two years ago. GreenTech isn’t my main reason to travel to the Netherlands, but it’s nice to combine the two events. We aim to introduce some innovations at our new location. The wheeled containers will be partly automated. We would like to set them up in such a way that they can be fully automated in the future. I’ve been in touch with various companies, such as Codema, Logiqs, and Bosman van Zaal. I will be sure to visit these companies at GreenTech and finally meet the people who I’ve been in contact with by email.’

How’s trade going?
‘Trade is good here, partly because the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Canadian dollar is in our favour at the moment. It’s because trade is going so well, Mike and I thought it was time to expand. We’ve been looking to do so for quite some time now.’

Neil van Steekelenburg

Company: Cosmic Plants
Location: Beamsville (Canada)
Crop: Phalaenopsis Orchids