Interview Inca Orchids

Family business with exclusive Orchids

Could you tell us a little about the company's history? Inca Orchids is a real family business and has been active in horticulture for generations. After the war, my grandparents settled in Nootdorp and started growing there under flat glass. From there, they have built their business into a heated greenhouse with tomatoes, among other things. So my dad was brought up with cultivation. After my father Hans had done an internship in South Africa for a few years, he and my mother continued the company in Nootdorp. After a lot of wandering, we eventually ended up in the pot orchids segment. I then joined the company: I had obtained my HAS degree and worked for a few years as a manager in a large paprika company. On the farm we grow exclusive orchids in the 9 and 12 cm pot sizes. These range from Zygopetalum, Brassia, Cambria and Epidendrum to Miltoniopsis. We started small and we have got to where we are now by trial and error. There is still much to discover and optimize in the cultivation of exclusive orchids. We are taking major steps to optimize the cultivation pattern. In 2007, we started growing 12 cm pot plants on one hectare and we have now expanded to 2.4 hectares. In 2012, we built a new greenhouse and made our company future-proof. Since then, we have implemented water recirculation, good insulation and light-repellent screens, and automation has been implemented where possible. In mid-2017, we started splitting up the growing and the finishing phase, with the result that we now rent a nursery on the other side of the road. This is where the young and 9 cm pot plants are grown. Sustainability is important to us. We are actively committed to biological control. In addition, we have solar panels and cultivation in recycled pots.

Why did you opt for exclusive orchids? Exclusive orchids is a beautiful product group in which there was and still is a lot to do in the field of cultivation and marketing. This cultivation is not suitable for large-scale growing and that is not what we were looking for. That doesn’t suit our characters: we like to step off the beaten track. Literally and figuratively, there is still profit to be made.

Inca Orchids is a real family business. How did you divide the tasks among yourselves? Hans is responsible for the nursery and finances. I am in charge of the finishing phase and sales, and I am ultimately responsible for the entire company. I also set the lines within the company. In addition to a nice group of hardworking colleagues, the various organizational tasks are subdivided within an involved team. That commitment is of paramount importance to us.

Who are your customers? The customers are very diverse, from high-end small traders through to larger retailers. Our 'store' (the stock of deliverable plants) is set up in such a way that we are able to deliver at tray level, but also to process larger quantities in one go. We focus on the top end of the market in each segment. We offer a high level of service, our thinking is customer-oriented in terms of processing and logistics, and we offer a high-quality standard at product level.

What do you do to serve the customer optimally? We have a good and clear offering, we surprise them with new varieties and/or lines, and we take the burden off the customer by delivering our products as complete as possible with the right packaging and labels. Our distinctiveness lies in our innovative products, our high level of service, and our dialogue, and hence enhanced relations, with our customers.

Besides the 12 cm pot size you also produce a number of varieties in the 9 cm pot size. How do you think that will develop in the future? The share of 9 cm plants in our production is expanding, we have gradually found a market for them. We expect the 12 cm really to remain the main market, with the most scope for qualitatively heavier multi-spike plants.

Where are the opportunities for exclusive orchids in the future? We see many opportunities for the future. Within the product group there are varieties that bring extras such as scent, a special shape, or colour. In addition, the shelf life is also getting better and we’re seeing a trend towards more compact varieties with multiple spikes. The new varieties are also easier to guide and flower more evenly.

What are the biggest challenges in both the short and long term? Rising energy costs have a major impact. Rising labour costs are also causing a considerable increase in costs. Our products are very labour-intensive and that will not change. Furthermore, the package of crop protection products is becoming increasingly narrower.

How do you see the future of the company? Positive! We remain alert and attentive to changes in the market and changing government regulations. We will continue to steadily build our brands and improve the quality of our products. We’re also focusing on making our production even more sustainable. What do you expect from Anthura now and in the future? Innovation in the exclusive orchids segment to achieve more uniform growth. We assume that Anthura actively searches for properties that meet growers’ needs, but always while maintaining product quality. Resistant species, plants with a shorter cultivation time, a high percentage of multiple spikes, good shelf life and then variety-specific something extra.

What is your experience of cooperation with Anthura? Our experience is that we are mainly 'learning together'. This is also a new market for Anthura and together we are exploring it. Hence we share technical knowledge and Anthura makes sure that our Cambria assortment can always be expanded. It's also nice that they take responsibility when something doesn't meet the requirements. Anthura is a professional company that is constantly moving forward in both cultivation and marketing. They are constantly looking for structural improvements and we recognize ourselves in this. We are very satisfied with our cooperation.