Edmonton to become hotspot for Phalaenopsis starter plant production

Flask plants arrive from Germany and are subsequently grown into plug plants or half-finished plants using cocopeat and bark as growing media.

Phalaenopsis breeder and propagator Sion and Bevo Farms started potting their first 200,000 Phalaenopsis young plants in their hi-tech greenhouse in Edmonton last February. The Canadian-Dutch-German partnership is attracting global attention as Bevo Farms Edmonton is set to become a primary production facility for Phalaenopsis starting material, servicing customers in Canada and the USA

Bevo Farms production manager Peter Kuijvenhoven is all smiles as he walks through the company’s newly acquired, closed greenhouse in Edmonton. The climate throughout the crop is uniform, and there’s low insect pressure as the greenhouse has no vents. Greenhouse air can be reused and mixed with outside air, allowing the grower to maintain high CO² levels while minimising their heating costs.

Driving quality and consistency

The hi-tech greenhouse structure gives Kuijvenhoven every opportunity to drive quality and consistency in Phalaenopsis starter plants. “Correct light levels, right temperatures and well-balanced nutrition got the plants off to a flying vegetative start. During this stage, we promote leaf development and stimulate root growth, which is going very well. Also, we have developed sophisticated propagation with exemplary hygiene standards to build trust with our customers.”

Not long ago, the facility provided the ideal growing environment for cannabis. Until its former owner – one of many companies that rushed to capitalise on marijuana when Canada legalised cannabis in 2018 – realised that Canada was growing far more marijuana than the market needed. The moment marked the end of what was called Canada’s ‘green rush’ and ushered in a new era for the Edmonton greenhouse operation.

Bevo Farms now uses the flagship greenhouse for the production of Phalaenopsis plug plants and half-finished plants, grown the ‘Dutch way’, that is, growing them in a mix of cocopeat and bark. Shipping of the first batch of starting plants – with or without induced spikes – is due to begin in August this year so growers can finish them in time for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day 2024.

Filling a gap in the market

Sion’s production manager Randy van Paassen sees in the bond between Bevo Farms and Sion a gap in the market, offering the ‘end grower’ starting plants that don’t need lengthy acclimatisation after a four-week sea voyage from Taiwan. He notes, “The problem for Dutch orchid propagators venturing into the North American market is that young plants should be bare-rooted with no growing media attached to the roots.

However, since May 2005, nurseries in the United States have been permitted to import potted phalaenopsis in approved Sphagnum moss media from Taiwan, giving the Taiwanese a competitive edge. We believe we can overcome competition with quality, cocopeat/bark grown starting plants, a vast and on-trend assortment including 60 cultivars in 12 cm pots and just-in-time delivery within two to four days.”

The best route to USA markets

Bevo Farms and Sion aim to sell their Phalaenopsis young plants at home in Canada but mainly in various parts of the USA. He agrees that Bevo Farms’ headquarters in Vancouver finds itself closer to the US border but still thinks the best route to USA markets begins in Edmonton. He explains, “The West Coast, apart from a few good companies in California, is not where Phalaenopsis production is concentrated most.

It mostly happens on the East Coast near big urban agglomerations. With this in mind, we think Edmonton is the best central location to serve our US customers. Moreover, the Edmonton region has always been a key oil-marketing centre and is a major producer of natural gas. So, heating your greenhouse in Edmonton is cheaper than in Vancouver.”

The Edmonton-grown Phalaenopsis young plants can be sorted by colour and variety. The young plants are available year-round.

This article was first published in the May 2023 FloraCulture International.

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