RosaFlora prefers Coir
Canada: RosaFlora prefers coir in large scale production of fresh cut flowers
Despite a particularly harsh winter this year, even by Ontario standards, Ralph DeBoer of the Dunnville-based, RosaFlora, doesn’t seem too concerned about energy prices, or weather conditions affecting business. “Rosa Flora definitely spent more on energy this winter, but thankfully, we had the equipment and infrastructure in place to keep the greenhouses warm,” DeBoer said.
Established 35 years ago by Dutch immigrants as a rose producer, the company has long since switched to cultivating cut flowers on a single 15 hectare site, growing gerberas, snap dragons, alstroemeria and lisianthus for the wholesale florist industry; and everything is now grown in Millenniumsoils Coir.
Millenniumsoils Coir lays claim to being the first company to introduce Coconut Coir to the North American market, and in common with similar producers in the Ontario region, coir seems to be very much the substrate of choice.
“We started 35 years ago, just growing in the soil, but since we have switched to coco and we really like the coco coir,” said DeBoer, RosaFlora’s Operations Manager. “We’ve been using Millenniumsoils Coir speciality mixes for the past 20 odd years because we are happy with the consistent high quality and service”
While all their gerberas are cultivated in 19 cm coir-filled pots, the rest of their production is grown in the ground with the coco added.
“Typically we have 20-30 cm of coco coir in our soil and as it breaks down we replenish it; and then between crops we sterilize,” he added.
With four to five rotations of snapdragons and three to five for lisianthus, routine steaming speeds up the breakdown of the organic coir, which they counterbalance by regularly adding new coir to the beds.
With the potential for arctic winters and very hot summers, Ralph elaborates: “This winter in Southern Ontario we’ve been getting minus 20 to minus 30 with the wind chill, but we can have nice summers and then it can be plus 35 so with these extreme temperatures we have to manage that.”
And manage it they certainly do, because since 2003 the company has installed three carbon-neutral biomass boilers fuelled by woodchip, off-setting the use of natural gas, and to ensure fuel quality, the chips are made from recycled wood - using their on-site wood grinder.
“We have about 15 megawatt thermal of biomass so with the woodchip we can heat probably about 80% of our 15 hectares.
“This winter because of the extreme cold, natural gas prices were elevated but it’s still reasonable,” said Ralph.
They also have 4 Caterpillar CHP units, natural gas boilers, and a 600 kW wind turbine that provides over 5% of the operations’ electricity. Electricity generated by the CHP is used for HPS lighting across all 15 hectares as well as being sold back to the Ontario grid.
RosaFlora’s market includes floral wholesale distributors throughout southern Ontario, southwestern Quebec and the north-eastern states of the USA.