FloraHolland is going to implement Image Auctioning for plants in Aalsmeer and Naaldwijk in phases. Image Auctioning has to be a fact by the time nationwide auctioning is introduced. Or when the gallery seats remain unoccupied. This was announced at the extraordinary AGM, which was held in Naaldwijk on the 21st of September.
The extraordinary AGM was called because this was requested by the action group ‘Behoud de Plantenklok’ (Keep the Plant Clock). They represent a total turnover value via the auction of 600 million euro. The extraordinary AGM was attended by 290 members.
It’s still unclear when exactly nationwide auctioning is going to be introduced in Naaldwijk and Aalsmeer. In the meantime, the auction is going to help growers make the transition from physical auctioning to digital auctioning, said chairman Jack Goossens. The auction is currently developing an app that growers can use to create good images.
The auction doesn’t know yet what the phased implementation of Image Auctioning is going to look like exactly. The focus group ‘Versterken Plantenklok’ (Strengthening the Plant Clock) is looking at the various options. CEO Lucas Vos invited members of the action group ‘Behoud de Plantenklok’ to join the focus group.
Vos: “I understand from growers that there is a certain sympathy for the idea of Image Auctioning, but that things are going too fast. I understood from Jos – (Jos Kester, spokesman of ‘Behoud de Plantenklok’, ed.) – that they prefer implementation to be carried out in phases. I’ve also heard from buyers that they disagree. I would like to start a conversation. And I suggest I visit a customer in Aalsmeer and a customer in Naaldwijk, to have a look at their processes.”
Vos indicated that he would also respond to the letter about Image Auctioning, which more than eighty buyers sent to the customer platform. Vos is the chairperson of the platform.
Vos explained that the auction wants to consult with traders about the speed of the auctioning process and the auctioning time. With Image Auctioning, it’s going to be difficult for traders to keep an eye on several different clocks at the same time. That was one of the things they pointed out in a video. Another issue was that they want to keep the showcases. A potential solution might be to change some of the auctioning times. Vos is aware that the pressure regarding the auctioning process has already been increasing as it is. He feels that that’s one of the reasons why auction presale has become more popular.
The CEO also highlighted a few advantages of the Today for Tomorrow system which FloraHolland eventually wants to introduce. But Image Auctioning needs to be in place before they can start thinking about Today for Tomorrow. The biggest savings of this system are in the area of logistics. And that’s true for both growers, customers and FloraHolland, according to Vos.
“Transactions are getting smaller, both through the clock and through direct trade. Image Auctioning and Today for Tomorrow are good ways to cut a lot of the costs. Digitalisation brings a number of advantages. Buyers gain access to a larger assortment and growers gain access to more customers. But price formation remains the most important aspect. The main objective is that growers and customers can earn well.”
Vos mentioned that if they didn’t switch to Image Auctioning, it would cost the auction 580,000 euro. “But that isn’t our main argument. What this is really about, is that we want to make the marketplace as strong as possible.”
The auction confirmed several times that the clock will remain important. The total turnover of the plant clocks in Aalsmeer and Naaldwijk is 450 million euro. “The plant clocks will continue to play an important role in our strong marketplace. The right information and images are very important”, said Jack Goossens. The clock remains an essential tool with regards to price formation and transactions. We want to strengthen our marketplace, both at a national and international level, and the clock is an important pillar.”
The action group says that for now, they’re happy with the outcome of the extraordinary AGM about Image Auctioning which was held last Thursday. “But the ‘perhaps’ that FloraHolland gave us regarding keeping the physical clock, is too vague for us. That’s something we’d like to have clarified pretty soon in the follow-up period.”
This is what Jos Kester said. He’s the spokesman of the action group ‘Behoud de Plantenklok’. He indicated that he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. FloraHolland agreed they would implement Image Auctioning for plants in Naaldwijk and Aalsmeer in phases.
Not before 2019
“Based on what RFH said during the meeting, I don’t expect a start with Image Auctioning of plants before 2019. The auction will first have to come up with some data. Without data, we can’t form an opinion regarding further steps in Image Auctioning. The auction has invited us to join the discussion. That’s great, but they’ve got to provide us with data. Without that, a conversation is pointless. You need data to develop a vision for the future.”
The action group refers to a study conducted by TNO/VGB in 2009, regarding purchasing behaviour in relation to virtualisation, digitalisation, logistics, market, production areas and chain. One of the conclusions was that purchasers weren’t able to grasp ‘everything that’s virtually possible’. The action group is lobbying for an update of this study, as there has been, and will be, lots of technological innovation since then. It would be good if all new knowledge could be taken on board.
“It can’t possibly be that when RFH asks us for a vision, without providing us with any data, we hold up a wet finger to see from which direction the wind blows and subsequently base our vision on that”, said Jos Kester. “We need to have a thorough understanding of what digitalisation means for growers, traders and auction. The only figure we’ve heard so far, is that it costs 580,000 euro to keep the physical plant clock going. That was a revelation. But even for that amount, we can’t just chuck the plant clock in the bin and kill the cooperative in the process. And this is separate from the fact that all of FloraHolland’s IT problems have already cost several tens of millions of euros.”
Hold on to physical clock
The action group does want to digitalise, but they also want to hold on to a physical clock. Kester expects that the cooperative will meet its Waterloo if they’re going to switch to digital auctioning only. He considers the physical clock the basis of the cooperative and expects that it will disappear eventually, when the auction decides to go completely digital.
Kester: “If they get rid of the physical clock, the heart of the cooperative will be gone. What will happen then is that a few large buyers will get all the power of the cooperative and the growers will all be swimming towards the same trap. There will no longer be any yardsticks for supply and demand. The large power blocks will dominate. Furthermore, I hope the auction will reconsider the cost-maker, cost-bearer principle. The running costs associated with the physical clock will have to be paid for by everyone involved in FloraHolland. Not by the cost-maker, cost-bearer principle.”