Thanks to a seemingly simple innovation, Hazeu Orchids has achieved significant gains on multiple fronts. With the so-called hexagonal pot, the cultivation space is utilized more effectively, the transport carts are loaded more efficiently, and there is also a significant reduction in energy consumption. To put it in modern terms, the product's 'footprint' has been greatly reduced, which is more than enough reason to confidently take home the Greenovation Award at next week's Trade Fair in Aalsmeer.
While winning the award is not guaranteed, the gains achieved are undeniably real. Chiel and Sjors Hazeu discuss this innovation on their Pijnacker-based orchid company. "The pot was our idea. We looked down on the tables and saw all those empty spaces. If you create a pot with the same diameter but with straight sides, a hexagon in this case, the surface area would be much better filled."
And indeed, that's how it worked out, but then comes the challenge. First, you create a prototype. Thomsen, the regular supplier who was later acquired by Modiform and with whom the growers are still clients, produced the prototype. Then comes the testing phase. Is it practically usable? Yes, but as quickly became apparent, the entire company needed to be adjusted for it. Internal transportation required modifications, and problems were encountered even in tasks like potting. Adjustments were needed for the fork that places the plants on the tables. Additionally, the 'collar', an attachment used in orchid cultivation to hold the leaves together, needed to be made smaller, which led to designing new trays to extend the savings in transportation.
Overall, it was quite a process, but actual implementation began in the spring of 2019. The necessary molds were ready (four in total: for the pot, collar, transport tray, and a special tray for packaging), all necessary adjustments within the company were completed, and calculations were made to verify the 20% savings target. "Yes, in plants per square meter, in plants on a cart, and in total energy consumption, we saw that 20% in each aspect," the brothers explain. "Since customers immediately asked about the precise footprint of the product and we were also curious about it, we engaged Greenhouse Sustainability. They calculated it and found a 16.4% reduction in CO2 emissions per plant."
The innovation was presented at the Trade Fair in November 2019, and by 2020, the round pot had been fully removed. The introduction initially didn't receive the attention it deserved, possibly due to the effects of the pandemic, the growers speculate. The market's focus was elsewhere, amidst an abrupt crisis and subsequently an outbreak of buying frenzy – a peculiar time. However, the brothers persisted on their chosen path. They introduced a new quality brand, Caleidos, and are currently working on further sustainability and savings through LED lighting and solar panels (work in progress). The grower has also become a member of Horti Footprint Circle, a group of entrepreneurs led by Greenhouse Sustainability, committed to collectively advancing sustainability in the sector.