News

apr. 11, 2023

We see an unprecedented movement in the industry


Theme trade fair GrootGroenPlus 2023: Dynamic and Digital


"We see an unprecedented movement in the industry, which is remarkably strong in automation, mechanisation, and robotisation"

The memory of the 32nd edition of trade fair GrootGroenPlus is still fresh, but the preparations for the new edition of the international trade fair for the tree nursery industry, which will be held from 4 - 6 October 2023, are already in full swing. As a new theme, the board unanimously selected: Dynamic and Digital. We asked member of the board Frans van Wanrooij why this specific theme was chosen. 

Auteur: Hanneke Tax                

 

Van Wanrooij doesn't have to think long before he answers this question: "We see an unprecedented dynamic in the industry, combined with strong digitalisation in many areas. We've experienced a period with great profits in the tree nursery industry, but since the spring, these profits are decreasing. This activates entrepreneurs in the industry. The combination of labour shortage, the product ready on the field, and the additional effort you have to put into creating great sales has boosted the dynamics: everyone is giving their all to be able to get ready for the future." 

 

Exponential
"I do find all that digital innovation in our industry very special", he continues. "Only a few years ago, the tree nursery industry was the last industry to still use the fax machine. If you look at it that way, the industry is rather conservative. Now, we see digitalisation in things like mechanisation, automation, robotisation, combined with up-scaling and efficiency. We've seen an exponential growth in this area. And there are certain companies and organisations that boost that development. I am for example involved with a company, Hortitime, which facilitates the digitalisation of time registration. And it is not just time registration; also the plant stand, activities, and cost prices can be included. Another company I am involved in, Aigro, helps with robotisation. That does not only automate the registration, but also the work. For example hoeing, mowing, and spraying. To be able to automate the work, it is often necessary to plant using GPS, and that is something we also see increasingly more often. A few years ago, these were experiments of a loner; now it is the standard for many larger companies. The same goes for the use of drones. An example of a company that takes the lead here is Liwardi in Nispen. Some large companies are growing and developing, and others in the industry see and learn from it. 

Soil
Van Wanrooij also sees a lot of dynamic in the tree nursery industry when it comes to solutions aimed at water, ground, and soil control: "This applies both to the location of the companies, and the solutions in growth and mechanisation. And the trade fair itself is also constantly moving. We've known for a while now that a move is coming; in 2023 we will actually move to a new, future-proof location. Of course, the trade fair will remain in Zundert, since all these dynamics require a solid base." 

"We have chosen the theme to put this dynamic in the picture, and to promote it", says Van Wanrooij. "I see that the Netherlands is a frontrunner compared to other European countries, where the tree nursery industry is less developed and more scattered. The Dutch tree nursery industry is very dense, and very well organised. In a couple of regions, such as Boskoop, Lottum, Opheusden, Middle Brabant, and Zundert, there are a thousand companies that are at most 150 kilometres apart. Germany and Belgium also have a single region with a cluster of businesses, but in most countries, the tree nurseries are solo companies, and if you want to go from one to the next, you would have to travel approximately 130 kilometres. The Dutch density allows for fast developments, because we see a lot from each other, and we want to learn from the strong suits we see somewhere else." 

Education
Van Wanrooij also concludes that education is something that the industry is handling better than ever. "Of course, the labour shortage is partly due to demographic aspects. However, as an industry it is important to invest in new people. Digitalisation can do a lot, but it won't solve everything. Fortunately, we see that young people find our industry attractive. Young people are also very enthusiastic to be part of the current dynamics of digitalisation, and they are willing and able to take over. One of the companies to play into the need for education for tree nursery companies is Yuverta, for example in cooperation with Joost Sterke in Haaren, where the connection between education and the need for staff becomes really apparent. That is the strength of this development, that education is put on the map, in combination with business." 

"The corona period has certainly increased the dynamics and the digitalisation in the industry", he continues. "Even though it wasn't hard to sell, it became clear that companies had to adjust to the future provision of labour. We also see a dynamic in the international sales, in this case broadening. First the main export countries were Germany and Belgium; that has been expanded to countries such as England, France, Austria, Switzerland, the former Eastern Bloc countries, Sweden, and the rest of Scandinavia. Borders are literally and figuratively shifting there. We see 'dynamic' as continuously shifting borders, to be prepared for future challenges." 

"We see 'dynamic' as continuously shifting borders, to be prepared for future challenges"
 

"These challenges are real", says Van Wanrooij. "Currently, sales are going down, because energy and living expenses are increasing for many people. That money cannot be used for green products. However, we do expect the demand for green products to stay at a certain level, even if there won't be a boom. We've noticed an increased awareness around needing green, and that is here to stay. Since the industry has to work harder to be able to sell and create a strong organisation, we are looking at solutions. And we're also looking at each other, for example through innovation circles, education, and industry organisations. Trade fair GrootGroenPlus plays a very important, binding role in this." 

Positive mood
"With this theme, we also want to show that we feel positive about the next season, even though we know it might be harder to sell our products in the next few years. All the dynamics and digitalisation offer so many possibilities, that it might be hard to keep up in the future. The tree nursery is an awesome industry; it is an honour to be part of that in these challenging times. GrootGroenPlus is an important platform for further growth in this dynamic, and to keep up with all types of digitalisation. There is still much work to be done." Van Wanrooij concludes: "I have been involved in the tree nursery industry for 42 years, and I've never seen more dynamic times than in the last five years. The enthusiasm of young people with their innovative ideas is huge; and I also see that this is for all ages. I really love seeing all the new developments that stem from that."

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