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Mexican plant breeder gets competitors on their way

The Mexican plant nursery PlantaNova doesn't just sell young vegetable plants, theyalso helps nurseries set up their own cultivation. Why are they helping their own competitors? Pharis Rico explains.

Pharis Rico

Plantanova nursery

This year, Mexican plant nursery PlantaNova bought a Flier Systems sowing line. They opt for the full line of the modular system: a tray filler, in order to save on substrate and to guarantee a more even growth, a drum seeder, in order to manage a good growth without expertly trained staff as well, a spreader, in order to protect the produce from the sun - the full version. With the sowing line, the entrepreneurs combat waste, and take the next step in quality. It's the first full line to be deployed in Mexico, and they use it to stand out from the rest. And what do they do with it? They open their company to growers who can learn how to work with such a line at PlantaNova. Then they can propagate at their own company and, when they buy such a machine, benefit from it from day one. Why? Why are they helping the competition with this?

The options of the new line shown at ExpoAgroalimentaria

A peek in the nursery

"Mexico is a big country," manager Pharis Rico explains. "Nobody can supply to everyone. Big Mexican nurseries aren't looking for a plant breeder. They want to propagate the plants in their own company. They don't have the expertise for that, however. We do have that know-how. Propagating a plant is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle: all the pieces need to fit together. We can help them with that." But doesn't Rico fear the competition? "We can choose: either we lose the client and thus turn him into a competitor, or we become a partner and we stay involved. For us, it's not about selling as many plants as possible, it's about doing business."

Rico has been working according to this vision since PlantaNova was founded in 2008. The company is a subsidiary of the Dutch Grow Group and is also a part of HortiConnect, a cooperative of Dutch companies that supply to the Mexican market. "It's a commercial initiative, but sales isn't the main goal. We are not competitors, so we can share know-how and help each other out. There are plenty of opportunities here." Rico is clear about those opportunities in the sector: those are in mid-tech. Only 5% of the Mexican acreage is high-tech, with the division between medium-high, medium-low and low-tech being roughly equal.

But the cooperation also extends within the Mexican sector. Right before Expo AgroAlimentaria, the most important Mexican horticulture trade show, a number of Mexican horticulture companies made an agreement with the government to work together in the coming years. "We are discussing the future of the sector. The government can support that by giving money to promote horticulture, for instance, but also by adjusting legislation. "The government likes to see a healthy sector, and there are opportunities. Through better consultation, we can move forward together."

Competitors playing table soccer together - where do you see that?

Orange vs green

Dolf Hogewoning at the opening of the cooperation