December 22, 2010

Eye-Tracking Software In The Greenhouse

If you want to create great products, you must add value with benefits that are truly needed. These needs are not only those of your direct customer, but of those all the way down the chain of distribution to the ultimate user. In the case of our industry, it’s the garden center shopper. If they are satisfied, then retailers, growers and input vendors have all done their jobs. To hit this mark of value, there is nothing more important than knowledge and understanding what’s meaningful to the gardener from the point of sale through the life of the product and beyond. To this end, many methods of market research can be employed, from focus groups to store intercepts to online surveys. They all have a place in adding to the collective body of information that can lead you to develop the best product possible. Now, there is another research tool […]

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December 13, 2010

Making Sense Of Monrovia’s Request

Monrovia’s goal of reaching a bank-mandated $20 million in bookings is drawing a mixed reaction from growers, retailers and others in the industry. Some people sympathize with Monrovia and its dilemma while others are more skeptical of its request, concluding that the company will eventually serve the box stores in some form. Almost everyone has an opinion online, whether on, our Fresh Air Forum or our sister magazine’s website, Here’s what a few readers have to say: Monrovia Supporters Speak “Monrovia is a great company. We have to support people like this to keep our industry strong.”–Andy Bittner, Greenwell Plant Farm “I have always been pleased with the product and service Monrovia provides. Yes, they grow a few things as a convenience that could be bought cheaper elsewhere, but their quality has always exceeded my expectations. And they grow many unique varieties that help set the independents apart […]

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December 3, 2010

What Does That Production Input Really Cost You?

 In today’s tight economy, it’s only natural that growers are carefully monitoring all their production costs and cutting back on expenses in the hopes of maximizing margins and profits. It’s easy to understand their motivation; however, some growers may perform an inadequate analysis of their cost structure. This may result in some production decisions that are penny wise and pound foolish. There are a number of approaches growers can take when analyzing production costs, and some may require additional time to conduct. Still, a proper analysis must include sufficient detail to provide growers with the information they need to make a thoughtful, informed decision. There are three common methods used to determine what production inputs (fertilizer, pesticide, fungicide or herbicide, for example) are most likely to contribute to a higher profit margin: Cost Per Bag, Cost-In-Use and Return on Investment. Cost Per Bag Cost per bag is the simplest metric […]

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November 23, 2010

New McGregor Site Focuses On Customer Convenience

McGregor Plant Sales has launched a new website designed around customer convenience and streamlined online ordering. “Along with a fresh new look, we’ve added more of the convenient ordering features our customers expect,” says Cathy McClintock, McGregor Plant Sales CEO. “This enhanced, more user-friendly functionality gives customers easier access to our full range of annuals, perennials, PAC geraniums and other products.” Among the new features are a handy week selector that lets customers order from any weeks, new search and filter criteria to quickly find plants, and detailed product info and pictures for all of McGregor’s standard programs. In addition, McGregor has streamlined some of the site’s most popular features, providing one-page checkout with default ship to and bill to addresses; quick refresh pages; seamless transition from search to rapid order; and customizable search results formatting to view pictures, prices, cultural info and more. “This is just the beginning,” McClintock […]

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October 26, 2010

Big Opportunity In Edibles

Between the economic downturn facing the country and the desire of the consumer to obtain fresh produce that has not been tainted with chemicals, the edibles category has become the fastest growing sector of the green goods industry. According to the National Gardening Association (NGA), 31 percent of all U.S. households (36 million) participated in some form of edibles gardening in 2008. And 43 million households planned to do some kind of edibles gardening in 2009–a whopping 19 percent increase. No other sector of green goods can claim anything close to these numbers. In fact, some would argue most categories are flat to declining. And it seems logical the 2010 edibles figures, along with the figures to come, will continue to show strong growth. Although these numbers are impressive, it was apparent this spring there were a limited number of bedding plant growers participating in the growth of edibles. The dominant […]

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October 21, 2010

Wait & See Is The Wrong Approach

OFA President Danny Takao has heard the theory before and he scoffs at it. The theory: “Wait until they reach the right age and they will start buying our plants,” he says. But the wait-and-they-will-come approach is a risky one, Takao says, and the majority of the readers (84 percent) we polled last month agree. They say our industry can’t afford to sit back and bank its future on kids who currently have no interest in gardening. “You have to go and get them early,” says Susan Petak of Wessel’s Farms. “Once they are in their teens and 20s, I think you’ve pretty much lost them to what has caught their interest, whether it’s a sport or just being a couch potato.” Still, there’s the minority that argues our industry shouldn’t bother worrying about our future consumers because we’ve leaned on a model that’s been a constant through generations: As […]

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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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