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20 February

HTA Study Trip

HTA Study Trip

– by Gordon Johnstone (Digital and PR Account Manager)
Ever since I discovered Stroop Waffles I have wanted to visit the Netherlands.  When the opportunity arose to travel there with an HTA study trip I wasn’t about to pass it up lightly.  Not even a 5.50am flight could deter me (although it came close).
From my perspective, the purpose of the trip was to learn more about the horticulture industry and to determine how Love Your Plot could be of greater benefit to the industry.  Meeting people who live and breathe horticulture and learning about their experiences will always trump desk research. 
We began by visiting the Elho HQ and factory in Tilburg.  Elho is a fantastic example of a company that practices what it preaches.  As an organisation it is fully committed to sustainability; as such, the only waste the factory produces is heat (which is already once recycled) and it is working towards becoming carbon negative over the next 10 years.  It is a noble ambition and, after speaking to the staff and management, you get the feeling they will not stop innovating until they achieve it. 
The next day we spent the morning at the Garden Retail Experience in Boskoop.  Exhibitors from across Europe presented emotive displays on the theme of ‘Growing Emotion’.  Having a keen understanding of the coming trends is essential for any industry, so this was an invaluable opportunity to get ahead of the game.  The highlight for me was a guided tour of the exhibition by Romeo Sommers – the mastermind behind the design of show.
From the Garden Retail Experience, we travelled to the Ranzijn Nieuw-Vennep garden centre where we discovered a stunning range of houseplants.  There were plants on display I didn’t know even existed!  It was interesting to compare the range of indoor plants available in the UK and the Netherlands; while there was undoubtedly greater variety in Tuinzaken, the ‘grow your own’ market appears much more developed in the UK.  Whether this is a cultural or marketing difference remains to be seen.
Friday morning brought a visit to The Auction in Aalsmeer; the world’s largest flower and plant trading centre.  This was a truly fascinating experience – the sheer logistics of the flower shipping industry is mind-boggling.  21 million cut stems – which is two million plants – pass through the auction every morning, and a stem cut on Monday morning can be delivered anywhere in the world by Wednesday afternoon.  The next time I’m in a garden centre I’ll have an entirely new respect for the massive operation behind the plants!
Trips like these are always hugely beneficial – getting first-hand experience of the inner workings of an industry is worth days upon days of research from afar.  The HTA were fantastic hosts and the people we met along the way could not have been nicer or more passionate about their industry.  I came away from the trip with even more enthusiasm for Love Your Plot and enough ideas for content to keep us busy for seasons to come.

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