I have been involved with the Floriculture Research Alliance (FRA) for three years. I wholeheartedly support their efforts because as a grower, I need unbiased, rigorous and well-designed research that helps me solve current problems. I need research that is creative and challenges my assumptions about how my growing system operates.
My research dollars go primarily to Erik Runkle at Michigan State University, and I don’t put too many specific demands on how he uses the money. Part of my reasoning for this is that a lot of the creativity is being driven out of research because of a demand for the instant result.
But good research doesn’t work this way. It’s a process of discovery that takes time to unravel. Good research often takes unexpected turns with unforeseen outcomes. My investment gives me firsthand access to the research results and the researchers. This is important! The FRA even takes the relationship a step further by offering a yearly conference where all researchers from the group present information–even though I don’t contribute to all the researchers in the group.
Listening to research results helps me think more broadly about how I implement growing systems in my greenhouse. In addition, research work “leaks” back into C. Raker & Sons through multiple channels–the least significant of which may be me. It leaks back through articles, talks, sales reps and other growers.
As floriculture researchers retire and are largely not replaced, we are losing this resource. In their place, we have to sort through the claims of salespersons who, although well intentioned, are nonetheless selling their product.
My experience is products are frequently not well tested, or not tested in my situation. Or, they’re not well tested against comparative or competing technologies.
The bottom line is I’m being left to sort through all the disparate information, and I don’t have time to do this well. The research work of the FRA helps vendors more confidently sell their products and growers know what they are buying.