“Can we go the extra mile?”, the intro on the website of horticulturist Erik Boterdaele sets the tone immediately. The bar is set high and the added value can be found in his varied range of outdoor plants as well as in his vision of sustainability.
These are busy days for Erik Boterdaele. Now that the summer is giving way to autumn, summer flowers are passing on the baton to hardy perennials. Anyone who thinks that just means greenery should take a closer look. In particular, the Hebe Addenda will lend a touch of colour to every Indian summer. You could safely call Erik a specialist in outdoor cultivation, even though his roots lie in growing houseplants. As a youngster, he helped out in his parents’ houseplant business. In 1987, a second location was added where the family focused on outdoor plants. Erik and his wife took over this branch in 2000.
Belgian horticulturist of the year
“I noticed that the demand for outdoor plants was increasing. I started with three varieties: Aucuba, Euonymus and Fatsia. Later, at a customer’s request, we added Prunus and our flagship Hebe.”
From the start, Erik had a taste for innovation. He was named Belgian horticulturist of the year in 2014 for good reason. The jury praised him for his commitment to sustainability and quality. A commitment that he shares with the growers’ association Addenda®, a highly respected A-brand for plants. “There is huge added value in working with this association. Firstly, they launched our Hebe with strong marketing. And secondly, the growers have only the best quality in mind. Our Hebe is patent-protected and that makes them unique. When developing new varieties, growers carry out in-depth research into aspects such as susceptibility to disease. They also select on the basis of colours and leaf shapes, constantly creating new varieties.”
You can go far alone, but you can go further with Floréac
The collaboration with Addenda has served Boterdaele well. “As a result of this careful selection, we stand out from the competition. Other forms of collaboration also contribute to this. Take the growers’ association BE.Plants, an alliance of four growers who serve the same customers. We’re not competitors, because we enhance each other.” That sounds like Floréac’s vision: ‘You can go far alone, but you can go further in a team.’ Can Erik identify with that?“I really appreciate Floréac’s openness and transparency.”
“I really appreciate Floréac’s openness and transparency.” Erik Boterdaele
“Absolutely, and the collaboration with Floréac has been bearing fruit in recent years. I appreciate the way in which they involve us in the whole process. A concrete example: about two years ago, Floréac organised a horticultural trade fair. We were invited and even got a free stand. For them, this offered added value because we were there as specialists. We were able to provide customers with accurate information immediately. For us, this was an interesting way to get in direct contact with customers. A win-win situation for both parties. I really appreciate Floréac’s openness and transparency.
Another example: we have been supplying AVEVE for two years. This is also due to Floréac. We were involved in the negotiations from the outset. Openness is always paramount and you feel taken seriously as a partner. I’m very proud to be an A-level supplier. That is also a sign of appreciation and respect.”
A score for MPS
You don’t become an A-level supplier just like that. Erik has been investing in innovation for years and is committed to sustainability. “We have been MPS certified right from the start. In concrete terms, this means that we accurately record our chemical agents, fertilisers, the consumption of water and energy, and so on. Every four weeks, we forward this data to MPS and on this basis, they assign you an A, B or C score. We almost always achieve an A score.”
“We also have GlobalG.A.P. certification, which actually goes one step further than MPS. You get a very long checklist of things to keep track of. It’s not only about which spraying agent you use, but also about how you maintain your sprayer, which procedure you follow if glass breaks in the greenhouse and so on.
“In my opinion, GlobalG.A.P. will become the leading standard within a few years.” Erik Boterdaele
You write down every step you take. That’s really what it comes down to. And I think this will become the leading standard within a few years. If you don’t comply with this, you’re not so highly regarded as a grower. After all, more and more customers expect this.”
Planet. People. Profit.
Erik makes considerable efforts to keep his ecological footprint within limits. He briefly summarises his efforts:
- • Capture and reuse of irrigation water.
- • Sorting of commercial waste and as little residual waste as possible. The pots are made of recyclable plastic.
- • Rational use of energy through the use of shade cloth in the greenhouses.
- • Solar panels.
- • Conscious choices regarding the purchase of raw materials and spraying agents.
Erik also extends the sustainable approach to his personnel policy. For example, he participates in projects that aim to coordinate the labour market and the work circuit.
Rediscovering the garden
The last year and a half has been different, to say the least. As a grower, he absolutely can’t complain and can also look to the future through green-tinted glasses: “People have (re-)discovered their garden, and that is here to stay. Even though distant journeys beckon once again, the motto ‘East/West, your own garden’s best’ still applies.