Greenhouse Grower: Over the last 40 years, how has Smithers-Oasis evolved to keep meeting the rooting needs of growers?
Nathan Keil: From the earliest days, Smithers-Oasis has been solution oriented. Paul Ecke Jr. first approached Smithers-Oasis to make a foam media that he could root poinsettias in and ship all over the world, without worrying about spilled media during shipment. Since then, Smithers-Oasis has worked with virtually every university and scores of researchers to further improve and develop rooting/growing techniques for its cellular rooting media.
OASIS Grower Products has consistently provided the key attributes growers have valued for almost 40 years: uniformity, cleanliness, high degree of aeration, unitized configuration and just-in-time inventories for their rooting needs.
GG: What are growers looking for now?
NK: In general, growers are looking for products and services that will deliver consistent quality and value to their operation time and time again. Growers are looking for a systems approach that works with their production, one that provides reductions in shrink at all stages of the process, from rooting success on the bench to greater sell-through at retail.
GG: How does the FERTISS technology keep up with grower needs?
NK: The FERTISS Propagation Plug System was added to the OASIS Grower Products line to provide a peat moss-based rooting media to our offering. It provides another solution to propagate many types of plants and adds another tool for growers be successful.
GG: What are the advantages and benefits of FERTISS ? What kind of feedback have you gotten from growers on the Fertiss technology?
NK: The advantage of FERTISS propagation plugs is plugs are very consistent. All OASIS Grower Products are manufactured and tested against exacting specifications, and FERTISS is no different. Growers can rely upon the plugs being very uniform from cell to cell, case to case, pallet to pallet. Because of this, growers can expect easy water management and uniform root
Our unique manufacturing method does not employ a vacuum-loading process. Instead, the FERTISS media is gravity fed into the fabric wrapping. Our method creates plugs that are soft and friable so as to make plant cutting insertion easy. It also creates plugs with good air porosity and drainage to encourage dense, fibrous root systems. Moreover, it allows us to manufacture with the media slightly wet so that FERTISS propagation plugs are ready to stick when received.
Beyond the product benefits, OASIS grower products are fully supported by a team of field representatives and complete technical assistance by our on-staff plant physiologists. There’s a piece of mind that growers have when working with our company.
GG: What opportunities have been presented to Smithers-Oasis over the last couple years because of the FERTISS technology?
NK: Beyond vegetative annual and perennial production, the FERTISS Propagation Plug System products have experienced considerable interest from the woody ornamental market.
GG: When and how did Smithers-Oasis realize there was an opportunity in grower foam?
NK: Almost 40 years ago, Smithers-Oasis identified opportunities to adapt its floral foam technologies to aid in the rooting of plants by providing a consistent and sterile rooting media. We have been improving and expanding our product offering ever since to help in the success of the industry, from stock plant production to the end consumer’s satisfaction of their plant purchases.
GG: How does the foam substrate for growers differ in its properties from the floral foam?
NK: The grower foam is only similar to floral foam in its base chemistry. Everything else is different. Floral foam focuses on heavy water absorption to cut flowers. Grower foam has much higher drainage to ensure proper aeration at the basal end of the cutting. The pH and other foam chemistry are likewise changed to be plant oriented.