Nursery Amarantis is located in Middelburg (Province of Zeeland) and specializes in the cultivation of full/double-flowered kalanchoe.
The van der Houwen family has been active in horticulture for generations. After years of growing vegetables, in the 1960s we switched to the cultivation of flowers and plants. In 1983 P.M. van der Houwen started growing kalanchoe at a nursery in Hooge Zwaluwe. In 2007 a second nursery was purchased in Middelburg, which was taken over in 2013 by the son J.P. van der Houwen, who changed the name in 2017 to Nursery Amarantis.
The company has an area of 45,000m2. Every year, 6,000,000 Kalanchoes are grown, packaged, transported and traded. All the required kalanchoe cuttings are produced by 2 companies in Tanzania.
Years ago, the company started with sustainable cultivation for economic reasons. In the meantime the ecological motives are equally important. Taking care of the preservation of the planet is becoming increasingly important.
Maintaining optimum plant quality, with less use of fossil fuels, crop protection products and fertilisers, is the biggest challenge in sustainable cultivation.
The company uses 100% rainwater that is collected in a large water basin, which is large enough to cover long periods of drought. Therefore, there is no use of mains water, which means that the water consumption has no influence on the drinking water supplies in the region.
Nursery Amarantis uses irrigation mats where the water that is not absorbed by the plant is collected in gutters and then discharged into a silo. From this silo, this recirculation water is mixed with rainwater from the basin and offered again to the plants. All the water is therefore 100% recycled.
Around Nursery Amarantis there is another five hectares of land. This land is used for non-intensive livestock breeding. There is enough living space for wild animals such as hares, rabbits, birds, etc. No chemicals are used around the nursery. Grounding is hoeed and mown instead of sprayed. Pests in the nursery are as much as possible controlled by natural enemies and good climate control.
All green waste is processed into compost. This also reduces gas emissions. The use of fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and peat is reduced by the use of energy-efficient cloths that ensure that less energy is lost, by the use of a combined heat and power system and by making use of the contemporary knowledge of more sustainable cultivation.
A plan to install solar panels on 3 hectares of adjacent land is currently being developed. With the generation of this energy, the nursery would be completely self-sufficient in the consumption of electricity.
Crop Protection Agents Kg Active Ingredient:
Provides insight into the use of plant protection products. Red stands for substances with a high environmental impact, orange for substances with a low impact on the environment, green for substances with a low impact on the environment (Source MPS-A).
Provides insight into the use of the amount of energy. (Source MPS-A)
Fertilizers (KG) Nitrogen and Phosphorus Consumption:
Provides insight into the use of Nitrogen and Phosphorus. (Source MPS-A)
Nursery Amarantis has 20 employees. The literal meaning of Amarantis is “eternal growth and flowering”. One of the spearheads of the company is not only to let the plants grow and bloom, but also to let the employees grow and bloom by investing in their development.
This is done through coaching and by giving employees the opportunity to follow external courses and training.
When an employee indicates that he or she intends to pursue a career elsewhere, Amarantis offers, at the expense of the company, the possibility of retraining in the direction he or she wants. Owner J.P. van der Houwen believes that when someone stops “growing” also stops developing. As a company Amarantis wants to develop, but that is only possible with the dedication and development of all their employees.
Foreign employees are also offered training in the Dutch language.
Seasonal employees are offered accommodation in a chalet, so that they can live close to the nursery in a comfortable and inexpensive way. For people who do not own a car, commuting is always difficult, but that is solved in this way.
Nursery Amarantis applies the statutory provisions of the Collective Labour Agreement for greenhouse horticulture with regard to employment contracts, working hours, leave etc. There is also a safety and hygiene protocol in place to ensure safety and health during the work carried out within the company.
In short, the employee is central!
Did you know that flowers and plants have a healthy effect on people?
Plants provide air purification..
People breathe in air, take out oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. In the case of plants it is the other way around. During photosynthesis, plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and convert it back into oxygen. The amount of oxygen in the air is increased by the presence of plants, which makes breathing easier.
Air-purifying plants can absorb harmful substances from the air through their leaves. These harmful substances are then stored and broken down in the plant’s roots. These plants can also break down dirty odours, so they are actually natural air fresheners.
For the sake of clarity, every (indoor) plant produces oxygen, but not every plant also purifies the air. Air-purifying plants are e.g. the Spathiphyllum, Calathea, Hedera helix (ivy), Areca palm and the Ficus. For many plants we do not yet know to what extent they have an air purifying effect since they have not yet been tested.
Plants ensure a better concentration and a reduction of stress.
Plants create a relaxed and better atmosphere, also at work.. Plants make the workplace a more pleasant place to work.
Apparently there is even a relationship between the presence of plants and the productivity of employees.
Moreover, the presence of plants has a positive effect on the creativity and concentration of people.
Plants reduce the dryness of the air
The dust content and humidity in the house are strongly related with each other. The dryer the air, the more dust. This can cause symptoms such as a tickling cough, dry skin, headaches and irritated eyes. By watering plants, it finally evaporates again through the stomata in the leaves. Plants can thus increase the humidity of the air, which therefore benefits the air quality.
Plants provide a pleasant and warm feeling Research has shown that plants are good for people in various (subtle) ways. They play an essential role in creating a pleasant, natural and quiet environment in which to move, work and/or relax.
Did you know that flowers too have a healthy effect on people? Flowers can brighten up any room in a magical way. They give meaning to our emotions such as love, joy, comfort, compassion and sorrow. Flowers provide a relaxing effect on our constitution. They provide positive energy in the home and a warm feeling. In short, everyone is just very happy about that!
The Dutch greenhouse horticulture sector is worldwide renowned for its innovative power. In order to be one step ahead of the competition from other parts of the world, people are constantly looking for better efficiency in the use of raw materials and space. This, of course, without compromising the (top) quality of the Dutch product.
The glasshouse horticulture sector in the Netherlands can cope with this rapid pace of innovation thanks to a strong relationship between research and practice. In addition, a great deal of knowledge is exchanged between the entrepreneurs in order to make progress together. The flower auctions are a good example of this as one of the largest cooperatives in the world.
Below we describe a few examples of this innovative power.
Biological control and integrated pest management
In order to minimise the use of pesticides and to find a better balance between parasites and their natural enemies, natural enemies of the parasites are used in the greenhouses. Thanks to the intensive exchange of knowledge between the growers and their suppliers, growers are increasingly able to produce a top quality product with organic solutions.
Combined heat and power (CHP)
Combined heat and power (CHP) is a large engine, originating from the shipping industry. Only it has been converted to run on natural gas. The efficiency of this motor is higher than traditional gas boilers. These engines drive a generator that generates electricity. This electricity is used in the company’s own nursery or is supplied back to the public electricity grid. The ‘residual heat’ produced by the engine is used to heat the greenhouses. After cleaning, the exhaust gases can be used to provide the plants with CO2. All in all, these motors provide an efficiency that can be up to 20% higher than the traditional method of heating (gas boilers).
Geothermal energy is used for this type of energy. A drilling tower is used to drill a well to a depth of 2-3 km. At this depth, water of more than 80 degrees can be ‘collected’. This heat is used to heat the greenhouses and then the cooled water is returned to the soil via a second source. It is expected that these sources will be able to continue to produce sufficient heat, even longer than the life of a greenhouse.
Drilling the well is an enormously expensive investment. In addition, there is a great risk that the drilling will ‘fail’. By working together with each other and with governments, in the Netherlands we are able to gain experience with this way of heating greenhouses sustainably.
Plants need water and nutrients to grow. More and more nurseries are making use of the reuse of drainage water. This is water that is collected before it disappears into the subsoil. This ‘drainage water’ still contains many nutrients that can be used by the plants.
By reusing this water and mixing it with clean water, less fertilizer is used.
However, the drainage water also contains some ‘wrong substances’. The content of these wrong substances determines how much water can be reused. The application of new techniques creates opportunities to filter these ‘wrong substances’ out of the water.
In new constructions, more and more growers are opting to cover their greenhouses with diffuse glass. Diffuse glass ensures that light is distributed much more evenly across the crop without any shade or light spots. This leads to a more even greenhouse climate.
Temperature and humidity can thus be controlled more accurately, which means, for example, that the opening of the air windows can be limited, which leads to lower CO2 emissions.
LED lighting in greenhouse horticulture
A new innovation in horticulture is the use of LED lighting. This lighting is not comparable with LED lighting used in consumer use. In the horticultural sector, the lighting is produced by ‘power LEDs’ and therefore much higher. The major advantage of these ‘power LEDs’ is related to sustainable business practices: energy savings compared to high-pressure sodium lamps (orange-coloured lighting). This saves more than half of the energy.
Another major advantage is that when using LEDs, crops can be better controlled using the different colours in the light. This is in favour of a better growth and a higher quality of the product.