October 20, 2010

Software Savvy

While growers with simple operations are getting by using basic spreadsheets to document accounting functions and production plans, those with more employees making decisions as management teams have found they need to centralize access to vital information for daily business functions, as well as planning. The past five years, we’ve seen growers moving toward comprehensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and consolidating all business operations into a uniform computing platform. Information flows from plant orders generated by the sales department, which generates a production schedule, reserves space in the greenhouse and orders the inputs needed to produce those plants. The systems can be designed to interface with vendors, customers and contract growers. ERP systems debuted 20 years ago in manufacturing industries as an extension of Material Requirements Planning/Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP). But these systems designed for manufacturing do not mesh well with horticultural enterprises. For instance, if you produce a […]

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October 20, 2010

Handhelds Are Hot

Handheld devices can help growers dramatically improve the accuracy of their plant inventory in the greenhouse, while also making it much easier to replenish inventory at retail stores. “The truth is, if you want a smoother operation, you must have better control of inventory,” says SBI Nursery Software’s Aaron Allison. “Very often customers come to us and ask for help in smoothing out the order process, but once we dig deeper, it is usually found that a sloppy inventory control process is the core of the issue. We have found that every penny spent on inventory control can save 10 times in order fulfillment.” Vanderbilt of Casa Verde Greenhouses, the production arm of Petitti’s Garden Centers, in Ohio says her staff uses handhelds in the greenhouse to check counts and when they move plants from one greenhouse to another. “It’s easy to use and we’re training more people to use […]

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October 11, 2010

Retailer-Consumer Communication Needs Improvement

The International Home Garden Conference, hosted Sept. 28-29 by Fleuroselect in The Netherlands, attracted 78 participants from 53 companies in 15 countries. An initiative to develop a new platform for the home garden sector came from representatives within the industry: Holland’s Pieterpikzonen and the Dutch-based Sahin, France’s Tézier Home Garden, Japan’s Takii, Germany’s Gärtner Pötschke and Burpee Home Gardens of the United States. A key theme emerging from the conference was the importance of communication between garden center retailers and consumers. Jisk Koopmans and Robert Wacker of Floramedia, for example, predict the use of QR codes on seed packets within 12 months in order to link consumers with smart phones to informational websites supplying details on the culture and use of the varieties on sale. Other comments and suggestions made: –Rolf Pohlen of Gärtner Pötschke’ suggests more gardeners are expected to not only make purchases via websites, but also use […]

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October 6, 2010

American Color Inc. Is Ahead Of The Game

Even when Ed Van Hoven was starting out small, he was thinking big. He had a modest family business in mind but could also see a much greater potential for the 28-acre site that has grown to be American Color in Orange, Va. As a third-generation grower and a grandson of the legendary Aart Van Wingerden, Van Hoven grew up in the business and was guided by the best. His father, Jerry Van Hoven, owns Battlefield Farms in nearby Rapidan, Va., which has grown to more than 40 acres in the last 20 years. Jerry also worked for Van Wingerden International for many years and helped start other extended family operations, including South Central Growers in Tennessee and Floral Plant Growers, which was in Maryland and Delaware at the time. Ed grew up in North Carolina and had the opportunity to work with his grandfather, Aart, at Van Wingerden International. […]

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September 29, 2010

Targeting The Next Generation

As our industry matures and greenhouse owners and producers start to think about succession–whether to a younger family member, a loyal employee or an excited young grower–the question of how long it will last comes to mind. It is a long-standing question in our industry, whether or not the current level of floral product consumption will continue into the foreseeable future. As many greenhouse professionals know, the core group that does the majority of floral product purchasing is the mostly female, 45-to-65-year-old demographic. The 25-to-44-year-old group lags behind, and the nearly non-existent 18-to-24-year-old group (in terms of purchasing) is behind them. Is this reduction in consumption a result of indifference to the products that we are selling? Or is it due to differences in lifestyle and buying power? Ohio State University’s annual trials program makes an effort to gauge consumer preference by asking our corps of volunteers and Master Gardeners […]

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September 28, 2010

Calculating Energy Savings

There’s a new energy in town and it comes from saving energy. And not just saving, but knowing exactly how much you’re saving, where and what pays off when. Greenhouse businesses have long been focused on reducing fuel and other energy costs. Far before sustainability became the moment’s hottest buzzword, growers knew energy was their highest cost besides labor. Saving energy would benefit not only their businesses, but their customers and, eventually, consumers. Knowing how and where to start saving is quite another story. And knowing whether investments like energy curtains make sense in your specific greenhouse – not a generic average operation – is difficult to determine. But with a quick and simple payback calculator, growers can assess how quickly investments like energy curtains pay off. Getting Started For many growers, knowing where to start saving is as difficult as actually making the changes to save. So what do […]

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September 28, 2010

Change Is The Only Constant

The most difficult task for any columnist is to project, due to publishing deadlines, what the major industry-related issues will be and what readers will be interested in three months down the road. But one would literally have their head in the sand not to recognize that the upcoming elections in November will be one of the issues causing the buzz when this issue hits the streets. Everyone already knows the 2010 elections are significant and competitive. Let’s add record-setting to that description. Why? – 2010 features the most U.S. Senate seats on the November ballot (37) since 1962. – 2010 also has the most elections for governor ever on the same ballot (also 37). – 2010 has produced one of the highest percentages of Democratic-versus-Republican House lineups in modern history. Fully 405 of 435 House races have both a Democrat and a Republican running for the seat. Democrats have […]

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September 28, 2010

Trucking Concerns

If you think your distribution costs are high now, just wait until new government regulations become effective later this year! What? You didn’t hear? I love the free market. I love it when barriers to enter a market are low, and the most cost-savvy companies offer the most competitive rates. Competition in the marketplace goes a long way toward keeping the prices of goods and services contained. When the free enterprise system is allowed to operate with minimal interference, consumers benefit. Unfortunately, government regulations will soon be imposed that may constrain the free market that most of us hold dear. The regulations may eliminate much of the competition that keeps trucking healthy. The issue at hand is the government’s desire to place new standards on truck drivers and trucking companies. While safety is important to all of us in the industry, the regulations may have some unintended economic effects on […]

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September 23, 2010

Finding Passion In Portland

If you ever go to the Farwest Show in Portland, Ore., be sure to take some side trips in the area before and after the show. In the three days I was out there, I visited three growers, two retailers, two breeders and took in some fun and funky tourist attractions. Here are the highlights of places that really stood out with distinct niches that set themselves apart from all competitors: Voodoo Doughnuts – Doughnuts have been around forever, make us fat and have been commoditized by chains, but this place dares to be different as the edgy mad scientist laboratory for doughnuts. Toppings include Captain Crunch and Fruit Loops Cereal, bacon strips on maple icing, M&M’s, bubble gum, even lemonade, Tang and iced tea granules. The signature Voodoo Doll doughnut is a screaming, chocolate iced monster/person with a tiny pretzel stake in its heart. Saturday night, there was a […]

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September 21, 2010

Matterhorn Reorganizes, Will Stay Open

The owners of Matterhorn Nursery in Spring Valley, N.Y., filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Sept. 10 in Southern District of New York U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The 38-acre garden center, landscape and grower operation will remain open and work through the reorganization, says Ronnie Horn, who co-owns the business with her husband, Matt Horn. The Horns filed for the reorganization after a nearby town, Ramapo, pulled out of purchasing 15 acres of unused land from the nursery owners in early September. Ronnie Horn said Monday the collapse of the deal was a shock to them, because it had been in the works for more than two years. They had a letter of intent on the deal as late as July of this year. The Horns had been proactive about planning a renovation project to become a more sustainable business, which included green roofs, solar panels, a bio-mass boiler and other environmentally […]

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September 7, 2010

1-800-Flowers.com Partners On Mobile App

Online retailer 1-800-Flowers.com has joined forces with mobile commerce solutions provider Firethorn Holdings on its soon-to-be-released SWAGG mobile application. SWAGG, which will launch just before the holiday season, gives consumers the ability to purchase, personalize and exchange gift cards directly from a mobile device. "SWAGG will make consumers more resourceful and efficient by allowing them to give and get gift cards, receive personalized offers that they want, and keep them up-to-date with their loyalty programs – all from their mobile device," said Chip Fishburne, vice president of financial and merchant services at Firethorn Holdings. "Our collaboration with 1-800-Flowers.com will bring consumers who live and transact in the mobile world the convenience of ordering right from their mobile device. The SWAGG mobile application will provide 1-800-Flowers.com customers with a rewarding experience as they will be able to shop and purchase anytime, anywhere with the latest offers." SWAGG will also provide customers […]

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September 2, 2010

HortiMax CropView Keeps An Eye On Crops 24/7

HortiMaX CropView integrates high-resolution digital photography with HortiMaX climate computer technology to help growers keep a closer eye on their crops. The CropView camera takes both overall and detailed photographic images of a crop and stores these, enabling growers to view current and past images of crop responses in detail. HortiMaX CropView uses Nikon cameras that continuously send high resolution photographs to the computer’s memory, which growers can then play forward or back (zoomed in or out) in rapid succession, creating a film of crop responses. Macro and wide angle lenses are optional. By playing the images like a film, CropView users are able to watch 24 hours of crop development in 30 seconds, noting condensation (promoting fungi growth), pollen or minute differences in flowering or stem size (important in rose production) are captured in perfect detail and can be analysed and corrected using synchronous graphs that are constantly updated. […]

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