With a 99% chemical free P&D management, filtered, sterilised and recycled irrigation water and nutrients, and natural gas as a heat source for their high efficiency boilers, it is safe to say that sustainability is high on the agenda for CosMic Plants. “We focus on maintaining a strong triple bottom line, which measures success with the 3-P’s in mind: Planet, People, and Profit. CosMic Plants is committed to continuous improvement in the sustainability of our business practices,” says Mike van Steekelenburg, co-owner of CosMic Plants.
CosMic Plants came into existence in 2004 when brothers Neil and Mike van Steekelenburg immigrated from Westland, the Netherlands, to Canada with a business plan to grow Phalaenopsis Orchids for florists, garden centers and wholesale distributors. In 2006, the first Orchids were sold. “Over the course of the next 17 years we grew our business to what it is now: a devoted team of employees and a name and reputation for quality Orchids in 2 pot-sizes (8 cm and 12 cm) and in various product categories,” says Van Steekelenburg.
Sustainability efforts and goals
For the company, sustainability has been and still is an important topic. In addition to what is said above, the exhaust CO2 is cooled down by economisers and then used in the greenhouses to enhance growth. They also separate their waste materials and recycle the organic waste and plastics with the help of their local recyclers. Van Steekelenburg: “Our goal is to grow and supply beautiful Orchids in the most ethical way possible. Although we keep striving to improve, we are proud of how far we’ve come in terms of environmental sustainability”. The current sustainability goal is to reduce the use of plastics in the packaging: the company have transitioned to cardboard trays and are making efforts to get their Orchids to the clientele without sleeves.
Familiar with MPS-ABC
The company only just got certified, after conscientiously inputting their data for over a year. Because of their Dutch roots, the brothers were already familiar with MPS-ABC. “We also wanted to compare ourselves with our industry peers across the oceans. Because we noticed that MPS-ABC is getting more and more recognition in North America, we felt that this certification would be best suited. We had a gut feeling that our practices and data collection would already suit the MPS platform for a large part. That proved to be true,” Van Steekelenburg indicates.
They did not change any of their practices because of the fact that they now measure usage and are being audited for it. Now that there is a base of information, the company will use it to try to keep improving. “Our grower Mariah Hendriksen who was tasked with the project to become MPS certified gets credit though for her role in it! She has been diligent and meticulous with the data input and staying on track with our growing practices. Thankfully, we did not have to change anything other than some administrational matters,” Van Steekelenburg points out.
The company believes that certification should play a larger role in floriculture than it does now. “Without a certificate, our collective efforts are not much more than a feel-good story. The only way to quantify our efforts is to measure it and to have the data independently audited.” CosMic Plants decided to participate in MPS-ABC to measure and quantify their efforts. “We also wanted to be able to show our own team that what they do matters.”
They feel that sustainability has become more important worldwide, in every industry. Yet, Van Steekelenburg feels that the sector has to make sure to explain and talk about the sustainability efforts being made more often. “The floricultural industry is one to be extremely proud of! So: be good and tell it!”