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US: Expertise, focus on growers key for Hort Americas

With the expansion of the greenhouse vegetable production, niche ornamental crop production and the controlled environment agriculture industry in North America, the business can feel like a gold rush. At times, it seems like a flood of new companies are popping up looking to grow or supply the people doing the growing, and with an already established cadre of large growers and suppliers, it can be hard for a company to make it. But for Hort Americas, a horticultural supply company based in Texas, the keys to making it through the 'gold rush' are a focus on grower needs and strong expertise.

From its inception, Hort Americas has been in tune with what growers need. Started as a joint venture between a group of young North American entrepenuers and the Dutch company Horticoop, Hort Americas is an outfit specifically tailored to meet the demands of the North American market.

Dr. Johann Buck is the Technical Service Manager for Hort Americas

“When we started the company with Horticoop, there was an understanding that Hort Americas would be based on what the North American market needed,” said co-founder, Chris Higgins. “Going in, we knew that whatever we built had to be informed by knowledge that's available in Holland, but had to be unique in order to compete in the North American market.” That's involved everything from forming a partnership with Philips to provide LED lights for growers to finding ways to adapt Dutch techniques to the U.S.

Trials of Seed Germination and Propagation of Unrooted cuttings

“We can take things we've learned in the Netherlands, because the market is much larger there, and apply them in the United States,” said Higgins. An example of that is taking the physical characteristics of growing substrates used in the Netherlands and finding domestic suppliers that can recreate those characteristics.

“In order to be more sustainable, we can't import everything,” noted Higgins. “So we have to figure out how to recreate working products by using resources we have locally.”

With customers from Alaska down to Panama, Hort Americas covers a large territory, and they're able to do that with a small team of eight, Higgins pointed out, because of two things: expertise and a realistic focus on what they can provide growers.

Orchid Production using Hort Americas designed Bark Mix

“We hire people that are immersed in the industry,” said Higgins. “They either have experience in the horticultural industry or have family that have that.” That knowledge is partnered with a deep interest in figuring out grower needs. It's only through listening to growers and understanding their needs that they can figure out how to help them, noted Higgins, and they can only do that, given their size, by limiting their focus to a few, but well-executed, areas. Currently, that involves a deep focus on LED lighting, substrates and cropping accessories for greenhouse vegetable production.

“We have realistic expectations, we know we can't be experts on everything in the industry,” said Higgins. “But when we feel there's an opportunity to make things better for the grower, we put ourselves in a position to help.”

For more information:
Hort Americas, LLC
Chris Higgins
General Manager
Skype: chigginsconsultant
+1 469 532 2261

Publication date: 1/22/2013
Author: Boy de Nijs





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