The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming! By Bridget White

We saw it this spring at the California Pack Trials, thissummer at the Ohio Florists’ Association’s Short Course and now inthe pages of GPN. And it’s not only the British. Germans, Dutch,Japanese, French, Chinese, Danish, Costa Ricans, Koreans — they’reall 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 hearingabout their automation and receiving their bulbs for over a decade. Soit’s not so much the company or the internationality of it allthat’s new. It’s the way these companies are interacting with theU.S. market that’s different. I’ve got two great examples to showyou what I mean.

I had the opportunity to sit down with representatives ofFides North America at this year’s Pack Trials; they were holding theirfirst Pack Trial show at Twyford International. Being new to the Pack Trialsand to most U.S. growers, this Dutch-run company, production for which takesplace 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 intesting, to gauge reaction — to see if they were approaching our marketfrom the right angle. They must have liked what attendees had to say because theirbooth at the Short Course was full of their newest varieties as well manyothers that had been previously introduced to the European market, and therewas a general feel in their booth of “look who’s new.”

Tokyo, Japan-based ASAHI Glass/AGA Chemicals was also thrustinto the role of “new kid on the block” at this year’s ShortCourse with their poly introduction into the U.S. glazing market. F-Clean touts95 percent light transmission and a guaranteed 10-year life. But the makers arenot just trying to sell U.S. growers an unproven product; they were at theShort Course to arrange a series of U.S. test sites. These new sites, alongwith several existing ones, will provide localized data to supportASAHI/AGA’s entrance into our market.

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

Adding an International Flair

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

So why jump ship now? Maybe you shouldn’t, but boydoesn’t looking around give you lots of great ideas? Back to one of theexamples 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 aboutlong-lasting glazings and return-on-investment and such.

One thing that I’ve learned is that manufacturers, bethey foreign or domestic, are very willing to work with growers on customprojects: design a structure to accommodate that oddly shaped piece of land, createa cart that meets your specific needs, configure a covering system that willwork best under your conditions. That’s why learning from all these newcompanies is so important, and it’s why I recommend that every grower, nomatter how large or small, attend at least one international trade show eachyear. Go to Amsterdam for NTV in the fall or Essen for IPM in the winter orBirmingham for GLEE in the spring.

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

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