Sustainability Is Key To Your Operation’s Future


This year’s Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers Breakfast discussion, sponsored by BASF, centered around the same theme presented inGreenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers report in May, highlighting growers’ evolving crop protection challenges, including increased regulation of not only neonicotinoids but attention toward other crop protection agents, as well. Based on some of the developments in crop protection in recent years, in the advent of the pollinator health issue and consumer dissent about neonicotinoids and pesticides in general, Greenhouse Grower asked its panel of speakers to share new trends in crop protection worldwide, how growers are adapting with biocontrols and integrated pest management and what the future holds for growers and the supply chain, from the breeder all the way down to the end consumer.


Arthij van der Veer of MPS (More Profitable Solutions) was one of the speakers. Regelbrugge discussed crop protection trends in Europe, Latin America, and around the world, and what to expect on the horizon.

A transcript of Regelbrugge’s presentation appears below, or you can watch this video:

We are talking today about an interesting topic something that has been going on worldwide. “Floriculture is the world champion in the use of pesticides.” That is something that Greenpeace has said this year in Europe. It’s a very strong thing. Floriculture is about happiness, about coloring your home and your garden. But this is what the industry is faced with.

Another quote, and it’s something to think about: are bees the seals of the 21st century? Years ago, the seals were the ones on television. Nowadays, it’s all about the bees. I’ll be talking about some of the effects on the industry not only here in North America but also in Europe. Growers worldwide are faced with increasing pressure. Here it is Friends of the Earth, over in Europe it’s Greenpeace. Consumers are also changing their perception and specifically on pesticides.

Retailers are forced to take action, based on the pressure. We’ve seen a couple of examples. Home Depot and Lowes have been forced to take action based on the pressure of their shareholders. So that is something you are faced with, and also because of the change in consumer perception and opinions.

Neonics are only the start. It does not end there. We received the first list from Greenpeace about three years ago and there were nine products on there. The most recent list we received, there were 179 products on there. And they are saying, we’re not stopping. In the end, they want to have a broad reduction of crop protection agents. And growers have more and more pressure to reduce the usage. Those are the effects which are going on at the moment.

This is reality. It’s happening, and this is an example on the national level, but we have seen it worldwide happening where the NGOs are protesting and making the consumers change their perception that they have.

Retailers are phasing out sales, and even though a lot of them are still selling crop protection agents in their stores, they are phasing them out or simply banning the use by the growers of certain active ingredients.There is a development toward more transparency throughout the supply chain. So not only anymore you get your cuttings, but from breeder to grower, knowing what you are using and knowing what has been used on the product is important.

Cooperation in supplier groups throughout the supply chain will become more and more important. TEAM is a nice phrase, together everyone achieves more, so working together, that’s very important. Andof course, not only talking about crop protection agents but generally, as growers, you will have to become more aware of the use of other resources, also. And water is scarce in California, causing big problems. I myself live in Brazil, we have a huge problem with growers over there. Growers worldwide are faced with this. Fertilizers but also energy.

What do you do as a grower? That’s a very difficult question. I am 34 years old and i have been to 55 countries and I have seen a lot of different growers, going from Brazil to South Africa to the Netherlands. And every grower will have his own opinions and solutions. You are also faced with different circumstances. But there is a need for change coming up. It’s become an obligation. Alternatives, though, are not always simple or easy to implement. It’s going to be an investement, also. But I think as a group of growers here, we have to have an open mindset. And Travis also pointed that out, if you are willing to change, do something with it, but it will go towards being a must in the future.

Measurement and transparency are going to be very impotatnt tools in that part.

What do we see? On the grower level, we’ve seen an increase in use of biological enemies. Also, growers are testing with compost, compost tea, working together to make a stronger plant. Trials with alternative agents – biologicals, organics, but also alternative crop protection agents; some of the new introductions in the marketplace, for example. and then a broad focus on IPM. Quality control on your cuttings. What’s coming in has to be of good quality. And a specific thing here in North America, we see that growers are larger, they have their own R&D departments, they’re working on things, so that’s something that’s a big experience for us in this market, in comparison to Europe.

Differences over there that I see – adjustments in greenhouses are generally big and expensive. There is no push from the government to help growers. For instance in the Netherlands, we had a fund where the government would give growers grants to help them reconstruct or expand their greenhouses. That has been a big difference also why, in Europe, they have created bigger greenhouses, more expansive greenhouses and over here I see that sometimes as a difficulty.

What will the future bring? That is the million-dollar question. But there is no way back. It started with the neonics, but it’s not going to stop there. With broad production of use of crop protection agents in quantities, we will see a total supply chain approach, so not only individually compartmentalized anymore but throughout the supply chain.

Residue testing will become more mainstream, even on flowers and ornamentals. Today there is a push on fruits and vegetables, but also on flowers and ornamentals, and we will see that becoming mainstream.

In data development, retailers will want more transparency and verification through that data so they can see what have you been using, and in what quantities. As part of that big data develoment and verification, they will want some third party checking their suppliers.

Sustainability is really a key word for the 21st century. We started with it 20 years ago, and this year is our 20th anniversary. We saw sustainability then, and we see more coming.

Finally, I will share facts on the grower level. Many of you know Doug Cole. He was our first participant in October 2007, and what we did in the period of 2012-2014, even though he was already five years into the MPS program, he was still able to do a 5% reduction on his total usage of crop protection agents, and 5% reduction in use of phosphorus. That is something we can show from the data. Battlefield Farms was also a participant in 2010. In the period of 2012-2014, they’ve been able to reduce their usage by 33% of crop protection agents, and 22% nitrogen and 70% phosphorus. Those are impressive numbers, showing a return on the investment.

Finally Green Circle Growers has been participating since January 2013. They’ve been able in those three years to see a 39% reduction in the use of crop protection agents, 22% on nitrogen and 27% on phosphorus.

How did they do that? Awareness, improvement, and reduction. Those are the three key words.