Sustainability under the Portuguese sun

Meet Jan-Willem van der Meijden, the Cultivation Specialist at Florensis. He started his career at Florensis Ethiopia (FET) in 2011 and later moved to Florensis Portugal in 2016. Being responsible for all aspects of growing plants, including climate, irrigation, fertilization, and crop protection, he works closely with his colleagues Lumi, Rita, and Carolina, who have their own areas of expertise.

well image

MPS keeps me motivated

Since 2015, Florensis Portugal has been using the MPS system. Receiving input from the daily use Jan-Willem enters the data into their special internal excel program. They collect the data in the same way as at Florensis Abyssinia in Ethiopia. He likes the MPS user-friendly dashboard. The primary benefit of the certification is that it assures our customers that the products are produced sustainably and safely. It’s a quality assurance label and is even included on our invoices. The insight into the pesticide ratings helps him maintain an MPS-A rating and keeps him motivated.

Education in the greenhouse

Florensis Portugal places a strong emphasis on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and relies heavily on biologically based pest control agents to prevent problems with pest resistance. Swirski is a popular choice for them, supplied by Koppert. Jan-Willem visits the greenhouse every day to inspect the areas that need extra attention. When problems pop up, scouts in the greenhouse report to Jan-Willem, who then examines the issue using a magnifying glass to investigate. He always uses the opportunity to teach the scouts about the plant's biology and the best methods for controlling pests. We can for example increase the "army" with more mature Swirski or find other biological means to help anyway. If it still doesn't work then the last step is to look for a chemical solution. After all, we must deliver a clean product to our customer, so we must go for good quality.

Our challenges

The MPS-ABC program indirectly benefits our team by ensuring that the workplace is well-organized and meets certain standards. Next to this we also have Global GAP, which includes standards for staff facilities, like protective clothing, and if there are sufficient toilets. Hans Goudswaard can tell you all about our certifications.

We're proud to say that we have an MPS-A ranking with 84 points, but we're not without our challenges. Our biggest issue is with disinfectants. Cleaning our greenhouse, pots, trays, utensils, and cold room weekly, requires a lot of disinfectants. Around 80-85% of what we register now is disinfectants, which is a lot.
Our Florensis locations in Africa use steam to disinfect, which only asks for some diesel use. Together with colleague Ronald Geverinck (Project Manager at Florensis in The Netherlands), being the link between all the foreign locations, we're exploring various options and trying to reduce our use of disinfectants as much as possible.

Another challenge we face is that manufacturers often only register new and safer products for fruits and vegetables but not for use in ornamentals in Portugal. The ornamental market is too small. Therefore, we must seek permission from the government to use these products (authorisation for minor use), which takes time and money. Sometimes, we have no choice but to use red (worse) products.

Our goal is to grow our business sustainably. Disinfection is essential, but it makes it hard to stay eco-friendly. We'll keep working on ways to reduce our disinfectant use and find new, sustainable products to use in our operations.

well image

How to profit from the sun

My personal wish in sustainability is that we will do something with solar panels at this location. Especially in a country with as much sunshine as Portugal, it is a missed opportunity not to take advantage of this. Most of our activities, such as the use of pumps and machines, take place during the day. And you can even look at heating with solar water heaters. See how our production location at Dinteloord (the Netherlands) uses solar panels.

At home, I'm ahead of the game in this regard because there I already have a solar water heater and solar panels and I don't need gas. This is not only good for the environment, but it also saves you money, he concludes smiling.