The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

August 9, 2002 - 10:14

We saw it this spring at the California Pack Trials, this
summer at the Ohio Florists’ Association’s Short Course and now in
the pages of GPN. And it’s not only the British. Germans, Dutch,
Japanese, French, Chinese, Danish, Costa Ricans, Koreans — they’re
all making their way across the waters with an increased presence in the U.S.
horticulture market.

Of course the Dutch are old news. We’ve been hearing
about their automation and receiving their bulbs for over a decade. So
it’s not so much the company or the internationality of it all
that’s new. It’s the way these companies are interacting with the
U.S. market that’s different. I’ve got two great examples to show
you what I mean.

I had the opportunity to sit down with representatives of
Fides North America at this year’s Pack Trials; they were holding their
first Pack Trial show at Twyford International. Being new to the Pack Trials
and to most U.S. growers, this Dutch-run company, production for which takes
place in Costa Rica, opted not to show the extent of their genetic lines.
Instead, they selected a few of their newer products, ones that were still in
testing, to gauge reaction — to see if they were approaching our market
from the right angle. They must have liked what attendees had to say because their
booth at the Short Course was full of their newest varieties as well many
others that had been previously introduced to the European market, and there
was a general feel in their booth of “look who’s new.”

Tokyo, Japan-based ASAHI Glass/AGA Chemicals was also thrust
into the role of “new kid on the block” at this year’s Short
Course with their poly introduction into the U.S. glazing market. F-Clean touts
95 percent light transmission and a guaranteed 10-year life. But the makers are
not just trying to sell U.S. growers an unproven product; they were at the
Short Course to arrange a series of U.S. test sites. These new sites, along
with several existing ones, will provide localized data to support
ASAHI/AGA’s entrance into our market.

It seems that the tables have turned. No longer are American
growers expected to import technology from Europe, Asia and Israel and figure
out adaptations on-site. International manufacturers and breeders are leading
the way by devising those configurations and making applications easier.
Finally, the United States is a viable market unto itself instead of a dumping
ground for over-runs.

Adding an International Flair

So what do you care if international companies are finally
starting to see the prospects in the U.S. market? Don’t we have
outstanding home-grown manufacturers and breeders that are already accustomed
to meeting your specific needs? Absolutely. Our U.S. companies are some of the
best in the world, and they’ve believed in our market from the start.

So why jump ship now? Maybe you shouldn’t, but boy
doesn’t looking around give you lots of great ideas? Back to one of the
examples above. I didn’t know that a poly could last for 10-plus years.
I’ve started asking some of my friends in the coverings market about
long-lasting glazings and return-on-investment and such.

One thing that I’ve learned is that manufacturers, be
they foreign or domestic, are very willing to work with growers on custom
projects: design a structure to accommodate that oddly shaped piece of land, create
a cart that meets your specific needs, configure a covering system that will
work best under your conditions. That’s why learning from all these new
companies is so important, and it’s why I recommend that every grower, no
matter how large or small, attend at least one international trade show each
year. Go to Amsterdam for NTV in the fall or Essen for IPM in the winter or
Birmingham for GLEE in the spring.

I’ve yet to talk to a grower who attended an
international trade show and wasn’t full of ways that technology he had
seen there could be adapted for use back home. I know it’s an old, tired
thing to say, but you really do learn something new every day.

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