Nursery Kwakernaak: “Sales become easier due to environmental registration”26 May 2021
The ambition is to make our marketplace sustainable and therefore futureproof. Many growers are working on this. We love sharing their stories. In the spotlight this time, tree nurseryman Henk Kwakernaak. Three years ago, he wasn’t even thinking about environmental registration. This spring, however, he was the first Dutch tree nursery floriculture who obtained the environmental certificate IDA from GLOBALG.A.P., by registering through GreenlinQdata and an audit from Control Union.
"The hardest part is that you have to fill in data regularly." As a small grower of cytisus and hedera, among others, Henk Kwakernaak from Reeuwijk is a very busy person. "You have to do everything yourself, including administration, Floriday and filling in which pesticides you use. A larger company can dedicate a half fte to this, by yourself, it is quite a big job. You basically need to have a fixed time during the week or month, that's the best thing to do."
Three years ago, the environmental certificate was an abstract idea to Henk. "I heard things about it from Royal FloraHolland, of course, but I thought: as long as there's no knife on my throat, I won't do it." Because? "I just thought it was way too expensive. The meetings with the Members' Council, physical meetings back then, were very effective. They were the reason that a second party next to MPS was created and the prices dropped because of it."
In the autumn of 2020, it was finally time. "The auction indicated that you had to be certified by 2022, so we got to work. At first glance, I chose MPS, because if you chose GLOBALG.A.P., you'd have to deal with three different organisations and that seemed more difficult to me." However, Henk also contacted GLOBALG.A.P. as well, and the contact was immediately very good. "Yes, there are three organisations. I input data into GreenlinQdata, Control Union performs the checks and GLOBALG.A.P. ensures that everything goes smoothly. You actually barely notice that they are three different companies. GreenlinQdata is a small company, I think they only have four employees. As a result, you quickly get to know everyone and I really like that personal touch."
Consumption data of half a year
Suddenly, the momentum began to build. "A customer from the United Kingdom placed an order for broom, grape vines and conifer hedges and they asked if we were certified or not. That was a hard requirement for them. So I tried to see if I could make it happen quickly. I was already working with GreenlinQdata. In six weeks time, I managed to become certified. Very quickly, at GreenlinQdata they also thought it was a challenge. You have to submit, among other things, your consumption data spanning half a year through a registration module. I already kept track of that myself, so that saved me some time. Information about at least six months is a prerequisite for the IDA certificate of GLOBALG.A.P. I also had to fill in a questionnaire. This can be a bit tricky, because it is not targeted at tree nurseries." Control Union was able to perform the required audit over the past six months thanks to the digitisation of the data. After this, they provided the certificate.
Environmental certificate provides clout
The fact that Henk grows multiple crops, does not make it any more complicated. "I am certified for all my crops now. I am allowed to estimate the water and energy usage. I also live at the same address as my nursery, so the work and private data are mixed. And I have solar panels. Luckily, a fair estimate is satisfactory."
Would he advise everyone to go for that environmental certification? "It would definitely be a good thing if everyone would be certified, it would provide more clout. There is, however, a real 'but': for small growers with a relatively low annual turnover, it can be really difficult. It takes a lot of time and is expensive. In addition, I also see a lot of growers who can't or won't use computers. Thankfully, the Members' Council acknowledges this."
What are the benefits of the process for Henk? "On the one hand, it is costing me extra time at work and money. On the other hand, sales are easier and you learn to work in an even more sustainable way. The inspectors from Control Union were impressed with how organic we work here. There wasn't actually that much to improve upon."