Share your astonishment, it’s the basis of innovation

Where did you get the idea for Basewell? It’s a question I am asked on a regular basis. The answer is simple: ‘share your astonishment’.

With a background in the vegetable world, where the propagation materials are seeds, I was used to people doing everything they could to get the best out of the genetics stored in those seeds. It started at the very first step of the cultivation process. We would sort seeds by size, density, shape and colour. The next steps were priming and coating.

Physiologically, the seeds were brought to a development stage in which they were resilient to negative influences from the outside, germinated quickly and homogeneously, and were strong enough to get through the first couple of weeks. Hence my astonishment, when I saw how propagation materials are treated in the ‘cutting business’.

Cuttings are cut at production companies around the equator and subsequently cooled, packaged and flown to another continent. Not to mention the conditions in the cargo hold, at airports, in lorries and at the final destination.

A cutting doesn’t really have its own integrity, like a seed does, and is in fact a damaged plant part. Physiologically speaking, it is in a process that is closer to decay than to the initial phase of a young plant. So, what could we do to turn that around?

For the first experiments, we applied a growth-hormone gel to fresh cuttings. The results were amazing: they rooted and developed into young plants much faster than before. That was in 2015. The real breakthrough came with the introduction of multimedia strips for unrooted cuttings. They allowed for an automated process and opened up a wide range of other opportunities. We discovered a way to perform the first rooting phase without the use of any soil or growing media. That’s where Basewell started. With regards to performance, the results were comparable with cuttings that were rooted in soil. We had gone from a damaged plant part to a resilient, vigorous propagation material. Our form of ‘priming’.

There’s still a lot to improve in our sector. My advice: share your astonishment, it’s the basis of innovation!

Hans van den Heuvel,

Managing Director R&D, Dümmen Orange

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