Every once in a while, a technology or development comes along that has the potential to change everything. That certainly seems to be the case with Basewell, a novel new propagation method developed by Dümmen Orange that grows roots on cuttings without media at the offshore cutting farm level, covers the roots with a protective coating, and pre-loads the cuttings into cartridges that can either be hand or mechanically planted (see Greenhouse Grower‘s article on Basewell to learn more).
With more growers opting to propagate their own young plants, this new production method has the potential to change the way live inputs are delivered to growers around the world. But it will compete with and could even displace traditional business models for existing young plant growers, as well.
“In the end, growers can only buy a cutting once,” says Perry Wismans, Global Head of Floriculture Innovation at Dümmen Orange. “If they buy a Basewell cutting instead of a rooted cutting, it will affect growers who root cuttings for other companies.”
Wismans likens the invention of Basewell to the story of Kodak’s invention of the digital camera — as an example of what not to do. In the 1980s, Kodak had essentially cornered the market on film photography. A young inventor there developed digital photography, but Kodak decided not to sell digital cameras because it would eat away at the company’s bread-and-butter film sales. Kodak made billions licensing the patent it held on digital photography, but ultimately, the company succumbed to its own invention — and obstinance — and went belly up.
“The story in this is that you cannot stop progress or try to hide it,” Wismans says. “When we have this idea and it’s successful, we are obligated to bring it to market for our customers.”
What’s really unique about Basewell is the savings it may provide to growers — and the affect these savings could have on the supply chain beyond young plant growers. Some of these include shipping directly from the cutting farm to the finished grower, reducing need for propagation rooms and equipment; direct sticking into finished containers, circumventing plastic trays and plug/liner transplanters; reducing freight, energy, and labor costs; and optimizing greenhouse space, providing potentially more product in the marketplace and possibly even slowing buildout of ornamental greenhouse production.
If Dümmen Orange licenses Basewell technology to other breeders and cuttings producers, which the company is investigating, the system could potentially change the game for how the industry produces and sells live inputs. When you look at the cost savings and read between the lines, this system could also impact the way growers work with plastic tray manufacturers, growing media companies, automation providers, transportation companies, propagation equipment suppliers, and even the seed industry.
Ultimately, this idea may take some time to settle in the industry. The innovation and ingenuity behind Basewell and its potential to disrupt the marketplace is exciting for many in the supply chain, but it’s also going to take a while for growers to figure out how it can work for them.
To me, innovations like Basewell are gamechangers for growers. But just because it has the potential to change the game doesn’t mean it will if our set-in-its-ways industry stands in the way of innovation. Floriculture’s profitability is flat-lining, and it’s going to take more gamechanging ingenuity from suppliers throughout the industry to make it thrive again.