2009 AIPH International Grower of the Year winner Sylva Nurseries set for more expansion as global demand for its forestry trees soars

LIEVEGEM, Belgium: Sylva Nurseries, recipient of the 2009 AIPH International Grower of the Year Award, is preparing for a period of strong growth in 2022, following a record-breaking five years.

Sylva Nurseries lies in the agricultural heartland of East Flanders, enjoying a benign climate which promotes excellent plant growth.

The forest nursery has a deeply rooted ‘agri culture’ which goes back as far as 250 years. Sylva sells more than 25 million trees each year to create forests and develop nature reserves at home (Vinderhoute forest, Ghent Parkbos) and abroad. By volume they account for 10,000 ha of woodland, 2.5 times the surface area of the Brussels Sonian Forest. One hectare of mature forest absorbs 12 tonnes of CO₂ per year, so it’s no wonder that the company subscribes to the “The best way to protect the forest, is to create it” tagline.

Sylva Nurseries is run by a young and dynamic management. Ever since the family takeover in 2003 Sylva Nurseries has experienced a tremendous growth in terms of export trade and know-how – thanks to persistent efforts and a solid foundation.

Tremendous growth

The significant growth in turnover, particularly in the past five years, has also been reflected in the development of an experienced and complementary team (37 FTE in 2021) of thoroughly trained co-workers. Knowledge and experience from other sectors of industry – such as the pharmaceutical industry, construction and IT – bring about a cross-fertilization and provide a fresh perspective on business development.

Sylva Nurseries has an extensive international network of agents with a global customer base. The company is represented in the export work group of VLAM (Flemish Agricultural Marketing Board) and in BELBEX, EFNA (European Forest Nursery Association) and ENA (European Nursery Association).

Ready for the future

The Van Hulle family’s love for the profession combined with the accumulated know-how and a clear vision for the future has resulted in an innovative approach within the industry. The company is investing heavily in workload management and sustainable entrepreneurship. Among other things, they developed a special, ergonomic sorting machine. As far as possible, weed control is done mechanically.


As early as 2009, Sylva Nurseries was awarded the title of ‘Floriculturist of the year’ in Belgium and ‘AIPH International Grower of the Year’. In AIPH’s 2009 archives it reads, “During the 61st Annual Congress of the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), six grower candidates from six countries participated in AIPH’s inaugural International Grower of the Year contest. Doeke Faber from the AIPH, Jaap N. Kras from FloraCulture International and invited secretary Gerard de Wagt from the VKC Permanent Judging Committee organised the event in association with AVBS, Asocolflores/Ceniflores), NFU, Taspo/ZVG, NTO and FEPEX. The Award Ceremony took place during the AIPH Gala Dinner on Tuesday 15 September in the grand city hall of Zaragoza, Spain, which was the host city of the 2009 AIPH Congress. All six nominees, who are each the winners of their respective national contests, were highly commended by the international jury members with the first prize and Gold Rose awarded to Marc van Hulle from the forest nursery Sylva van Hulle in Belgium. The Silver Rose winner is the flower producer and exporter Silvino Salguero from Flores de Tenjo Ltda in Columbia. Third prize and the Bronze Rose goes to Pieter van den Berk from the semi-mature and mature trees specialist Van den Berk Nurseries.”

The company won these awards thanks to its innovative approach to environmentally friendly production methods, investments in efficiency and its intensive market approach. Sylva Nurseries also won the “Diversity Pioneer Award” for integrating diversity into their business culture in a creative and consistent manner.

International business

The internationalisation of Sylva Nurseries resulted in a production area increase of 115 hectares and an extension of its infrastructure with a new warehouse and added office space. Furthermore, their collaboration with various suppliers in the floriculture industry expanded.

In the next two years the focus will be on innovation and the further expansion of the infrastructure. This will include a variety of applications involving artificial intelligence, drones and robotization. The company will also become more energy efficient through the installation of solar panels on the roof of the new warehouse. This will make the company, including their vehicle fleet and machinery, completely energy neutral. A 10-million-litre reservoir is provided for the collection of rainwater.

Deserved winner of the 2021 Export Lion title

A natural passion and a drive for business on an international level combined with a solid independent financial structure have made Sylva Nurseries an important player within the international floriculture industry.

It is therefore a tremendous honour for the whole team of Sylva Nurseries to represent Flanders next year as Export Lion. The charming East Flemish tree nursery will be an enthusiastic and worthy ambassador for Flanders Investment & Trade.

2022 will be a festive year anyway, as the company will proudly celebrate its 50th anniversary in its current structure. Meanwhile, the eighth generation of Van Hulle is eager to take its place within the company.

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