Amazone Plants is building its future

Amazone Plants was founded in 2010 by Fred van Zijl and Lex Scheffers, two born entrepreneurs who find it important to have fun in their work. Having united their many years of growing experience, they decided to concentrate on producing Anthurium pot plants. For this purpose, they bought and rebuilt a former chrysanthemum nursery. The cultivation system was very suited to pot plants and in their early years Amazone Plants supplied Anthuriums in 17 cm pots.

This year, the adjacent tomato nursery was converted into an innovative and sustainable Anthurium nursery and the assortment was expanded with 9, 12 and 14 cm pots. We spoke with Fred and Lex about the expansion of their company and their vision of the future.

Can you tell us about the company's history?

Our history is quite brief. In 2010 we decided to take over a former cut Chrysanthemum nursery of 2.2 hectares. This company had a mobile transport system that was very revolutionary. We left this cultivation system intact over 75% of the space and made it suitable for the cultivation of pot plants. Then it turned out that the system is highly suited to growing pot Anthurium.

Over the past few years, we and five other permanent staff members have shaped the company and brought it to where it is today, and this number will now grow to 15 permanent employees.

This year you converted a tomato nursery and made it suitable for Anthurium pot plant cultivation. Why did you integrate this company with the pot plant nursery?

An area of 3.6 ha with tomatoes has no future. If you add it to our current company, then you are a major player in the pot plant market with 5.8 ha. An area of this size also makes you more interesting for other companies (suppliers and customers). The assortment has been expanded with 9, 12 and 14 cm pots are we have gone from seven to eighteen varieties.

How did you set up this new company?

The tomato greenhouse is 10 years old, but for Anthurium growing it is as good as new. In particular with all the new adaptations, such as new screens, lighting and mist installation.

The current layout is a copy of the system we already have at the existing nursery. However, the dimensions are different (table sizes) and we now have three extra pot sizes, which makes the interior of the tables look different. The bases are replicated one by one, like the growing gutters in a table, with a gap of air between them, resulting in a very active climate. The watering system is also the same as the one we already have: drippers ensure that a small amount of water flows through the gutters for a certain number of minutes, allowing the pots to fill up.

What was the most complex part of the new building?

It was quite a challenge to make the entire mobile transport and delivery system run smoothly. That still needs attention because of teething problems, but it will certainly be all right. On top of that, the implementation of the industrial robot was not without its difficulties. This robot is really innovative in horticulture and the cultivation system is also quite unique.

The robot will store approximately 100,000 pots each week, both freshly potted plants and the plants we are spacing. For each pot size we have four spacing positions: potting position, phase 1, phase 2 and the final position.

Another difficulty was linking the two companies. Everything had to go on one computer, with one water unit that supplies the water to both companies and one joint delivery system. We think it worked out pretty well.

Together with the new production location, we also have a new website and corporate identity. This was the perfect time to refresh everything. A new logo, new covers, a new website: everything has been implemented in the other company style. We are proud of the result.

The industrial robot

Speaking of pride... What are you most proud of?

That, so far, we have been able to achieve everything that we had budgeted for, within the timetable we set
and in good harmony with all the parties that we had to deal with.

The new company situation has also led to an expansion of the number of pot sizes in the range. What's the reason for that?

It is very handy and important for our customers to be able to buy all the key pot sizes of pot Anthuriums of a consistently high quality and the same appearance at one address. In addition, using the entire surface area for one pot size would have been too large an extension for the pot size in question.

What does Amazone Plants specialize in?

Our varieties are characterized by their very large flowers. This is partly due to the cultivation system, the lighting, mist, the light level and our cultivation manager Fred, who tries to use all of this to the best of his ability. The larger-than-average flowers have become our trademark.

Amazone Plants uses gutters for growing; why did you choose to do this?

By growing in this way, we can water the plants much better than with a rain pipe or with an ebb-and-flow system. This gives a more constant humidity level in the pot. The crop doesn't get wet and half-an-hour after watering there is no evidence that you have watered it. You can immediately start working with the plants again.

Is Amazone Plants now totally future proof?

The steps we have taken now means that we are well placed for the future. Our short- to medium-term plans depend on many factors. If there are opportunities or threats that call for action, we will not sit still. We have been operational since the end of September and, as we see it now, we will first get everything right on track in terms of organization, cultivation, logistics and sales.

What role does Anthura play in the future of your company?

Anthura is a very important partner for us. Eventually, all the starting material comes from them. We expect them to continue to invest in the renewal and improvement of their current range. That's important, because there's always room for improvement. With last year's new building, they have shown that they are continuing to take action and develop. This is a good and healthy thing.

We are entering the future together in a spirit of enterprise and need each other in the field of product ranges and production. We assume that they make responsible decisions with a view to a healthy market (no unlimited supply of cutting material) and that they support the growers with the promotion of the Anthurium product. In the lab they not only research cultivation issues but also how the Anthurium chain can best be tackled with a view to transport, temperature, retail shelves and consumers.

Last but not least, where does your company name come from?

Fred has parrots and they originally come from the Amazon. He wanted a name that reflected that. I thought it was an appropriate name, because the Anthurium also originates from the Amazon. In addition, the name Amazone has tropical, adventurous and positive connotations.