On Safari With Fides

On Safari With Fides

Right after Horti Fair last fall, Fides hosted a group of North American growers in South Africa. This was an opportunity not only to see where their kalanchoe cuttings come from but visit growing operations in another part of the world and take in cultural attractions while cultivating new friendships and business relationships. The tour was hosted by Reinoud and Rian Hagen of Fides North America, and the following growers participated:

– Ed and Joanne Boekestyn, Boekestyn Greenhouse, Jordan Station, Ontario

–Mickey Ferragine and Tony Gutta, Bradford Greenhouses, Barrie and Bradford, Ontario

–Bert and Jane De Bolster, Hanemaayer Greenhouses, Vineland, Ontario

–Sim and Debra McMurry, Metrolina Greenhouses, Huntersville, N.C.

–Bob and Joanne Newhouse, Walden Gardens, Wainfleet, Ontario

–Duane and Marion Van Alstine, Balfour Greenhouses, Fenwick, Ontario

–Stuart and Liz Van Staalduinen, Bayview Flowers, Jordan Station, Ontario

Based in Holland and owned by Kirin in Japan, Fides is a flower breeder-producer with a global presence in key blooming potted plants and cut chrysanthemums. Fides’ 15-acre cuttings farm in South Africa is called Safropa–blending South Africa with Europe. The facility outside Johannesburg was originally built to supply chrysanthemums, but that production has moved to Uganda. Today, the facility is completely focused on kalanchoe cuttings.

Safropa produces 1.8 million cuttings per week. While 65 percent of the production is the double-flowered Calandiva varieties, the remaining 35 percent is single-flowered kalanchoe varieties. In just four years, the double-flowered varieties have dominated the European market.

Adjacent to the property is a strawberry farm, also owned by a Dutch enterpreneur. Dutch ingenuity has come into play at Safropa, building canals to catch rainwater and secure a stable year-round supply of water, which isn’t found on most farms in South Africa.

The primary heating source is coal, and Safropa uses between 15 and 20 tons of coal per night. While coal is abundant and cheap compared to other fuels, the price has doubled from 400 rands (about $40) per ton a year ago to 800 rands per ton (about $80). For electricity, the facility has two generators to compensate for blackouts.

Safropa employs 350 workers. While 20 take cuttings at any given time, the rest are involved in crop maintenance and shipping. Some come to the greenhouse by foot. Others come by bus and Fides pays for the ticket. Workers get paid by the unit. While you wouldn’t think there would be a lot of worker protections in a Third World country because of the Apartheid legacy, there are social reforms and laws employers must follow under the Employment Equity Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Maximizing Yields

One thing we noticed across the kalanchoe varieties was differences in leaf shapes and sizes. Large leaves are taken off to enhance cuttings production. Supplemental lighting is used to keep plants in a vegetative state. Safropa has been testing energy-saving bulbs from Philips. Lights are on 10 minutes and off 20 minutes.

The rooting medium consists of coco fiber, bark and Styrofoam. It is steam sterilized and reused for three crops. “We had to learn a lot with coco, making sure it wasn’t too wet or drying out,” says Frank Enthoven, the managing director at Safropa. “We were almost not sleeping at night, testing the cocos.”

Stock plants are changed out every 40 weeks, which keeps production fresh. “When I came here, the place was full of kalanchoe trees!” Enthoven says. “This system works. The main thing is the plant needs to be ready for the next order in three weeks.”

Growers had the opportunity to ask questions about their production concerns. Enthoven says he fields between 30 and 40 eMails a day on these matters.

Learning Logistics

When we went into the shipping coolers, the growers had fun finding boxes of cuttings addressed to their operations in Canada. A few even put surprise notes in the boxes for their employees to find. Cuttings were shipped on Friday to arrive on Monday for sticking Tuesday. They were packed in Styrofoam-lined boxes for temperature control.

Transportation takes longer to the United States and Canada than to Europe. If temperatures are consistently high or low, that’s okay, but when temperatures fluctuate, the plants sweat.

Another logistical difference between North America and Europe is what happens when substitutions need to be made. In North America, where there is usually a broker in between, the substitution needs to be cleared through the broker before it can happen. In some cases, brokers will allow growers and Fides to resolve these issues directly.

For blooming potted plant specialists with 52-week programs, timing is critical to receiving the same colors on the same date. They need all the colors in the box of cuttings.

Ready For Retail

In addition to visiting Safropa, we visited two finished plant growers who supply local markets through the Plantimex distribution alliance. Retailers range from florists to nurseries, interiorscapers and chain stores.

Patio Plant Nurseries, owned by Jan and Elvira Bronger, specializes in pot mums. Cuttings are shipped in from Uganda. While quarantines are an issue with chrysanthemum cuttings coming into the United States, other countries do not have restrictions.
The Brongers focus on a limited assortment of varieties with strong colors and schedule crops every two weeks, 10,000 pots at a time. They sell all they grow.

In addition to supplying cuttings to growers, Fides has been selling 120 million stems of fresh cut mums in South Africa, where the cut flower market is stronger than potted plants. While cut flowers represent $100 million in annual sales, potted plants are just 20 percent of that. In potted plants, Plantimex claims to have 55-60 percent market share

Going For Upgrades

The flagship grower for Plantimex is LVG, owned by the Van Geest family. Ivo van Geest is managing director of Plantimex, the distribution arm. He, his father and two brothers run 14.82 acres of greenhouse and all live on site. “The houses are just far enough apart to not fight,” he says.

The business is just 12 years old with modern greenhouse facilities with attractive brick foundations that match the buildings throughout. LVG looks like a nicely landscaped industrial park. Specialty crops include orchids, Rieger begonias, gloxinias, gerberas and Poulsen potted roses. While larger roses go to nurseries, smaller ones go to retail chains.

One quarter of Plantimex’s business is Woolworth, which is different in South Africa than what it was in the United States. It is more like a higher-end department store, like Kohl’s or JC Penney. Stores near Johannesburg receive deliveries every day, and plants are delivered to Cape Town every two days. Between 2,000 and 3,000 units are planted every week.

Plantimex also has a pottery factory to control its destiny with stylish plant upgrades. “It has improved our market tremendously on certain items,” van Geest says. “We’re not as cheap as China. Pots are $1.50 to $2 from our factory. We looked at importing but we can do shorter runs here, change molds. We’re not bound to inventory. Every six months, our looks change.”

Leave a Reply

8 comments on “On Safari With Fides

  1. i am claude pougnet and i live in Mauritius island .I have just started a flower exploitation and I am willing to plant chrysanthem and I am inquiring to see if you will be able to provide cuttings Ihave been given the name of your compagny by the South African F

  2. i am claude pougnet and i live in Mauritius island .I have just started a flower exploitation and I am willing to plant chrysanthem and I am inquiring to see if you will be able to provide cuttings Ihave been given the name of your compagny by the South African F

  3. I believe that Mauritius has the right type of climate to grow Chrysanthemum.I am intersted to grow them here and would like to be in contact with a supplier of cuttings.Please inform me on this matter.Thank you
    Claude Pougnet

  4. i am claude pougnet and i live in Mauritius island .I have just started a flower exploitation and I am willing to plant chrysanthem and I am inquiring to see if you will be able to provide cuttings Ihave been given the name of your compagny by the South African F

  5. i am claude pougnet and i live in Mauritius island .I have just started a flower exploitation and I am willing to plant chrysanthem and I am inquiring to see if you will be able to provide cuttings Ihave been given the name of your compagny by the South African F

  6. I believe that Mauritius has the right type of climate to grow Chrysanthemum.I am intersted to grow them here and would like to be in contact with a supplier of cuttings.Please inform me on this matter.Thank you
    Claude Pougnet

More From Varieties...
National Garden Bureau California Vegetable Summer Trials

May 26, 2016

California Summer Vegetable Trials In August Will Cover A Wide Range Of Crops

The National Garden Bureau is once again organizing summer vegetables trials this August in California, giving attendees the opportunity to visit with several breeding companies.

Read More
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials Guide And Spring Trials Report

The two guides are available in digital and print versions and offer information from several breeders.

Read More
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’

May 25, 2016

15 New Perennials For Bees, Butterflies, And Other Pollinators

These 15 new perennials, available for retail in 2016 and 2017, will produce colorful flowers and foliage year after year, providing habitat and food for bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other pollinators.

Read More
Latest Stories
National Garden Bureau California Vegetable Summer Trials

May 26, 2016

California Summer Vegetable Trials In August Will Cover…

The National Garden Bureau is once again organizing summer vegetables trials this August in California, giving attendees the opportunity to visit with several breeding companies.

Read More
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials G…

The two guides are available in digital and print versions and offer information from several breeders.

Read More
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’

May 25, 2016

15 New Perennials For Bees, Butterflies, And Other Poll…

These 15 new perennials, available for retail in 2016 and 2017, will produce colorful flowers and foliage year after year, providing habitat and food for bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other pollinators.

Read More
P.Allen Smith Cut Flowers

May 25, 2016

Sakata Seed America And P. Allen Smith Extend Partnersh…

Sakata is taking its partnership with plantsman P. Allen Smith a step further to create the P. Allen Smith Home Grown Cut Flowers Collection, a selection of premium cut flower seed hand-picked by Smith and bred exclusively by Sakata.

Read More
Coleus Fancy Feathers Pink (Terra Nova Nurseries)

May 23, 2016

Take A Sneak Peek at Terra Nova Nurseries’ New Coleus F…

A brand-new collection of Terra Nova Nurseries coleus varieties called the Fancy Feathers Series is now available to growers for online orders. The series produces narrow, feather-like leaves and offers a mounded habit.

Read More
Rotary Botanical Gardens, Wisconsin

May 16, 2016

All-America Selections Summer Summit In Madison, WI, Wi…

Registration is now open for the 2016 Summer Summit, which takes place in August and features a focus on the locally grown movement.

Read More

May 10, 2016

13 New Native Plants And Nativars For Going Green [Slid…

Native plants are becoming a bigger part of living green, as consumers become more aware of the role regional native plants play in promoting biodiversity in the garden, in urban landscapes, and in habitat restoration. Here are 13 new native plants breeders are offering to consider for your product mix.

Read More
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Ginger Love’ (Aris Greenleaf Plants)

May 10, 2016

12 New Ornamental Grasses For Low Maintenance Garden Ap…

Nothing says low maintenance like ornamental grasses. They add texture, movement, and all-season color to the garden. Check out 12 new ornamental grasses and grass-like varieties for growing in your greenhouse or the garden.

Read More
Blueberry ‘BrazelBerries Perpetua’ (Fall Creek Farm & Nursery)

May 9, 2016

Why Star Roses And Plants Is Buying The BrazelBerries P…

The purchase includes the brand, variety portfolio, and grower network, and allows Star Roses to capitalize on increased berry consumption among consumers.

Read More
Wave Petunias Team

May 3, 2016

Hot Pink Wave-Rave Van Making Its Way To The Big Apple …

Imagine driving down the road, minding your own business, when you’re passed by two smiling, waving, happy women driving a hot-pink van that’s adorned with petunia and pansy flowers. That’s not something you see every day, but motorists in the Midwest and Northeast may catch a glimpse of the Wave-Rave van this week as Ball Horticultural Co.’s Claire Watson, Product Marketing Manager, and Katie Rotella, Marketing Communications Manager, make their way to a media tour and plant giveaway in New York City. Watson and Rotella visited Cleveland’s WOIO Channel 19 news on Tuesday morning to tell consumers about Wave Petunias and Wave Pansies, and remind them to visit their local garden centers to purchase gifts for Mother’s Day this weekend. Check out this clip on Periscope. After the morning news, the ladies stopped by to visit the Greenhouse Grower staff at Meister Media Worldwide in Willoughby, OH. Next stop: Chelsea Garden Center in Brooklyn, NY, where […]

Read More
National Garden Bureau CAST 2016 Bloggers

May 3, 2016

5 Things Gardens Bloggers And Writers Learned At Califo…

For the second year in a row, the National Garden Bureau hosted five popular garden bloggers and writers on a trip to California Spring Trials. Here’s what each of them had to say about their experience.

Read More
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To …

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos A…

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 27, 2016

Know Your Market When Choosing Ornamental Grasses

Growers have no shortage of choices in the ornamental grass market. Narrowing down the selection comes down to finding the right plant for the right purpose.

Read More
Bee on Bidens

April 25, 2016

Breeders Go The Distance To Bring New Plant Varieties T…

Breeders are meeting the demand for new varieties that perform and sell well by extending trialing to engage the grower community, using advanced technology, and encouraging international collaboration.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

April 20, 2016

Growers And Breeders Are Always Looking For A Better To…

While edibles become more diverse, there's one goal that hard-core gardeners and urban foodscapers share.

Read More
Syngenta Pentas

April 20, 2016

Syngenta Flowers Opens Its Perennial Genetics To The Ma…

California Spring Trials 2016 visitors to Syngenta Flowers found the breeder company and its employees happy and excited for the future, in the wake of the announcement of its acquisition by ChemChina. Now Syngenta Flowers is ready to move forward with its breeding efforts in geraniums, pentas, and other crops, and it is opening its perennials offerings to the whole supply chain for a better chance to get those plants to retail.     Syngenta Wants To Revolutionize Geranium Breeding The big news in this year’s trial, says Karl Trellinger, Technical Services Representative at Syngenta, is the change in Syngenta’s breeding efforts in geraniums and pentas. The Calliope geranium series, long considered a premium line in the market, is getting a makeover. Growers have told the breeder that they love the colors available in the Calliope series, but the plants are just too vigorous for smaller containers and combinations. As […]

Read More
Petunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners)

April 20, 2016

Proven Winners Funds Gardening “It Couple,” Names Plant…

Since 1992, Proven Winners has been changing the gardening game, and it’s not stopping now. With new plants, improved series, and interesting retail customers, the brand aims to make planning easier for growers, and make gardening easier and more fun for consumers. At its new 2016 California Spring Trials location at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, Proven Winners had the space and a beautiful setting to lay all of its offerings out, from new and improved varieties in annuals, perennials, and shrubs, to marketing and retail programs. Check out the slideshow below for highlights.   Proven Winners Is Flexing Its Marketing Muscle One of the ways Proven Winners is working toward better use of its products and gardening in general, is by supporting the gardening authorities that gardeners of all ages trust on social media. Director of Marketing Marshall Dirks says while searching for influential gardeners, he came across a young […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]