The Netherlands is "The Land of Tulips", as the world's leading producer. With 50 million tulips produced annually, Dutch Mopabloem helps the country keep its name. Robots, packing lines and well-thought-out planning ensures that in a mere four months time, tens of millions of bunches can make their way to vases in consumers’ homes worldwide. “When we're running at top speed, we load 28 trucks per day. Our fresh tulips are sold in stores all over the world, including Trader Joe's the popular organic American supermarket.”
The sound of knives cutting the stems to exactly the right length echoes through the enormous packing and processing hall. Ed Griekspoor and his wife Sandra, founder and 50% owner of Mopabloem, check the knives of one of the three robot lines. The machine works at incredibly fast speed and before the knives cut the stems an x-ray scanner sorts the tulips according to their color.
“To do this manually would require dozens of workers. We’re currently producing 600,000 tulips per day to meet the increasing demand, while keeping the price competitive, we’re installing a fourth line next year”, says Ed Griekspoor.
Smart ideas guarantee productivity
Griekspoor bought a bankrupt pot plant estate and has renovated it over the last two years, transforming it into the stat-of-the-art modern tulip production plant it is today. In order to keep heating costs to a minimum double layer Svensson energy screens were installed. A CHP of 1.5 Megawatt provides energy and heat, excess energy is traded on the APX energy exchange. A forward thinker, Griekspoor developed the complexes unique and innovative ideas himself, including an oversized robotic arm that processes empty and full tulip trays.
“Designed for the car industry, the robot arm used to spray parts had an inaccuracy of three millimeters, as a result I was able to aquire the defective device", explains Ed. “Together with a technical company, I modified it to fit my exact needs. It allows us to work in a more efficient and accurate manner, maintaining our high production levels.”
With a growing area of 12.000 hectares, the tulip is the most important flower crop in the Netherlands. Being a spring flower, the majority of the production takes place outdoors. However, Mopabloem grows in a 30.000 m2 greenhouse and is specialised in growing tulips in fertilized water. The bulbs are manually put in water trays and placed in a 10.000 m2 cooling cell for two weeks, where the roots and stems develop. They are then moved into the greenhouse.
“By growing in a greenhouse we can control the climate, and can prepare the flowers for transport - a journey that can take days or even weeks. However, the consumer never notices as our tulips are always delivered fresh. In four months time we supply tens of millions of tulips to customers worldwide. To succeed we need to plan everything in detail.”
Customers all over the world
The entire production is exported. In Europe, the customers include Spar, Netto and Edeka and in America Trader Joe’s (TJ). Sales and marketing is overseen by Ed and Sandra.
“We do everything ourselves,” explains Ed. “In May, we start planning for 2016 together with our customers. The number of tulips per bunch, the color mix, mixed in a bucket or in a bunch, what type of sleeve, printed or not, barcode sticker with or without price and daily code are the multiple issues that we work through. The bulbs arrive in the summer and after a thorough analysis are stored in the cooling cells until December. Then in the spring, we can proudly supply super-fresh bunches of tulips to the vases of customers. Every Sunday I pick some beautiful tulips from the greenhouse for our home. It really is the greatest flower.”