Europe’s Leading Orchid Growers


A Queen With a Conscience

Against the backdrop of rising energy costs and the ongoing debate about CO2 emissions, companies that squander energy will probably have a hard job staying in business. Energy will account for an increasing share of the overall costs of operating a greenhouse. Growing orchids consumes a great deal of energy, so orchid growers keep a keen eye on costs. That's why more and more greenhouses, especially in the Netherlands, are glazed with ACRYLITE® High Impact Acrylic Multi-Skinned Sheet because its excellent heat insulation offers significant cost-reducing benefits.

Grace, purity, elegance and beauty are the attributes of a queen. So it's no wonder that orchids are seen as the aristocrats of pot plants. They also require regal treatment during their cultivation. Lavishly tended, nurtured and checked, they feel most content 81°F (27°C) .

Not exactly the average temperature in the Netherlands, the world's largest supplier of orchids. To thrive in Europe, these tropical plants are raised under artificial conditions of heat and humidity. That makes them real energy fiends. Good heat insulation and energy conservation have long been particularly important in this branch of industry, and call for efficient glazing. Double glazing with U-values of less than 3W/m²K should be the rule.

Many growers rely on ACRYLITE® acrylic multi-skinned sheet to keep heating costs down to an acceptable level. "It transmits more light than other materials, insulates better than conventional single glazing and therefore saves energy. It's also highly weather resistant," explains Michael Haussmann, responsible for the greenhouse market in Evonik's Acrylic Sheet Business Line.

ACRYLITE® multi-skinned sheet for potted plants Growers of potted plants in particular opt for energy-saving, light-transmitting ACRYLITE® acrylic multi-skinned sheet when it comes to converting existing greenhouses or building new ones. The insulating air cushions in the double or triple-skinned sheets offer particularly high thermal resistance and are therefore more suitable than single glazing. The more layers of air, the better the heat insulation. Greenhouses are normally built with two skins at most, to retain the highest possible light transmission, while reducing heat losses.

These facts also convinced Arjen Peerdeman, an orchid grower from Zaagdijk-Oost. This cost-conscious and environment-minded greenhouse operator chose ACRYLITE® ALLTOP acrylic double-skinned sheet as the economical solution to energy consumption in his greenhouses. "Not only do plants flower better thanks to the UV transmission of ACRYLITE® ALLTOP acrylic double-skinned sheet, the air cushions in the double-skinned sheets help us save energy. That means I can do my bit for the environment and get better results at the same time. ACRYLITE® ALLTOP acrylic double-skinned sheet has convinced us, and that is why we are presently adding another 73,000 ft² (6,800 m²) of greenhouse capacity."

"The Netherlands are our most important market at present, and one the whole world is watching. A total greenhouse area of 200 hectares are glazed with ACRYLITE® multi-skinned sheets in the Netherlands. This is where trends are set," Michael Haussmann says. "The crucial factor is that we can provide these leading global plant specialists with exactly what their plants need."

For Eric Moor, that means ACRYLITE® high impact (impact modified acrylic) multi-skinned sheet. This Dutch horticulturalist produces flowering Phalaenopsis orchids in Europe's most modern greenhouse. His colleagues, who grow Phalaenopsis seedlings, have slightly different requirements and therefore depend on ACRYLITE® ALLTOP acrylic multi-skinned sheet. These sheets transmit UV light and let the entire solar spectrum into the greenhouse.

Kees Schoone has ~ 650,000 ft² (60,000 m²) of ultramodern production space at his disposal at Floricultura in the Dutch town of Heemskerk. Energy conservation was what prompted him to choose ACRYLITE® ALLTOP acrylic multi-skinned sheet. "I save about 40 percent in energy costs as compared with traditional single-glazed glass greenhouses," he reckons. This figure is confirmed by the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering (IMAG-DLO), which established that energy savings of 24 to 55 percent can be achieved using ACRYLITE® ALLTOP, depending on which multi-skinned sheet used. "The UV transmission also has a positive effect on seedling growth. So we are investing in vigorous growth and energy saving," says Kees Schoone, whose business grows some 30 million orchids per year.

The same applies to the Phalaenopsis orchid "nursery" of specialist Ed Meeuwissen at Orchids4ALL in Aalsmeer near Amsterdam. The greenhouses built there in 2001 by greenhouse manufacturer Bosman using ACRYLITE® ALLTOP multi-skinned sheet have now been extended to ~ 270,000 ft² (25,000 m²).

Scandinavia and North America are catching up "ACRYLITE® is not just the trend in the Netherlands? The Scandinavian countries and North America are catching up," Haussmann says. But there are climatic differences that influence the choice of material. Andy Matsui in Salinas Valley, California, chose ACRYLITE® high impact multi-skinned sheet in 8 mm thickness. That is important because California is very hot in the daytime, but cool at night, so the temperature deficit has to be balanced and the heat level kept constant.

America's largest grower of potted orchids is presently expanding again. The Matsui Nursery is glazing a further 150,000 ft² (~ 15,000 m²) of greenhouse with ACRYLITE® high impact acrylic multi-skinned sheet in 8 mm, bringing the total area glazed with ACRYLITE® to 500,000 ft² (~ 50,000 m²). Several years ago Matsui began to refit his older greenhouses successively with the long-lasting eight-millimetre-thick double-skinned sheets. His total greenhouse capacity is an impressive 30 hectares. "The 21st century belongs to the orchid," Matsui says. He expects the demand for orchids to grow steadily.

The greenhouse of the future Orchids are not the only pot plants and ornamental varieties to thrive under ACRYLITE®, sheet which is often chosen to cut energy costs. "There is clearly a trend towards the low-energy consuming greenhouse, and the Netherlands play a pioneering role, with plans for greenhouses that can be heated completely without fossil fuels," Michael Haussmann tells us.