In today’s economic turmoil, where capturing the disposable income of a family or individual is more difficult, it has become important for any business to start thinking about how their present market share can be maintained and even increased. It becomes a balancing act between selection of crop, optimizing profits and quality.
It’s essential for any company to look inside itself and realign the business based on the techno-economic feasibility of the products and processes. Techno-economic feasibility means finding the balance between optimizing technical information and the economics related to the production process of the horticulture crop in order to make the operation sustainable.
In the horticulture industry, things have changed rapidly over the last five years. With our business, Sheridan Nurseries, being located in Canada, we have to factor in a Canadian dollar at par with the U.S. dollar and a major portion of our horticulture products being shipped over the border. Key points we have to consider are:
- Process refinement
- Product optimization
- Realignment of business
It has become a necessity to realign the present business, looking at it from today’s economic standpoint. Hence, there is a need for in-house research and development activities by every growing operation to identify and optimize their potential and work toward the techno-economic feasibility of the existing products. The term research and development should not be applied only for developing niche products. Working on the process refinement and product optimization of the prevailing products should also be the intent. Since each growing operation has its own microclimate, cultural conditions and limitations (from an infrastructure standpoint), it becomes very important for every operation to tap the optimum potential of the facility, which could be products, processes, inputs, cultural methods, etc.
Be Open To Change
It’s human nature to want to work in your comfort zone, but in the present world, the buzzword is “change,” whether it is politics, industry or culture. Growers need to aknowledge and adapt to changing conditions and focuse on optimizing the potential of his growing operation. There are many factors to evaluate when analyzing the techno-economic feasibility of the crops, but some of the most important are:
- Physiology of the crop
- Environmental conditions (growing operation microclimate)
- Monitoring the inputs (cost and quality)
- Cultural practices
- Use of plant growth regulators (PGRs)
- Product layout, assembly and harvesting
- Shipping and logistics
- Marketing and customer liaison
These factors are important not only for introduction of new plants or products but also for existing products. Understanding the physiology of crops and the environmental conditions of the growing operation are extremely important in making initial observations on the crop that will eventually lead to process refinement and optimizing growth conditions. This is especially true where the growth of the crop is related to yield (cut flowers or vegetables), cultural practices, fertilizers and use of PGRs, along with changes in the environmental conditions, which have the potential to trigger major changes in the final yield. The selection of varieties, nutrients, growing medium, container (pot size and design), design of the production process, harvesting and packaging should be optimized according to the layout of the growing operation.
Make Trialing A Priority
Since these processes are related to the production of the final product, extensive process refinement is essential. Trials should be ongoing in order to excel in these areas. Each and every person working in the growing operation should be coached to think of ways to improve and optimize production within the scope of their responsibilities. It is extremely important to budget money for research and development within the growing operation, which will be paid back by optimizing the product and process. Each of these factors and many others have been researched by professional institutes.
However, it is important to optimize these results for your growing operation facility. These findings can be used as the base; further trials need to be conducted by respective growing operations to help them adapt the results to their own needs. Since we are dealing with plants that are living and bio-dynamic in nature, the response is not always the same. It tends to vary in different environmental and cultural conditions.
Research and development results in innovations or ideas that can be a source of potential value in terms of gaining competitive advantage. Since customers’ needs are changing, flexibility in the business is vital to accommodate the changes. Finally, it is extremely important that the research and development is focused on the quality of the product, optimizing the processes and ensuring repeatability and reliability, thus enhancing sustainability and a competitive edge.