Selecta one Breeding sustainable flowers with love

Selecta one Breeding sustainable flowers with love

As flower markets evolve and demand for flowers redefine production and export, breeders are finding innovative ways to respond to these market needs while keeping the markets excited with new varieties.

For Selecta One, a global player in breeding, producing and marketing vegetatively propagated ornamental plants, it is an art and science it continues to perfect since it first set up shop in 1932.

The company is a breeder of gypsophila, Solidago, carnation, gerbera, chrysanthemum varieties and also source for materials from other breeders.

According to the company, there has been a lot of demand from customers for Gypsophila which is used in making fillers. Some of the areas that traditionally used to grow Gypsophila like Ecuador and Columbia are not supplying to key markets like Europe, with their focus now on Americas, so growers are keen to sate the European demand. The company is also breeding other varieties that can tolerate other conditions. At the moment, weather patterns are affecting growers. It is becoming drier and water becomes an issue. Some of the growers have been keen on expansion but have been affected by lack of water. So, there is growing request from growers to have varieties that can withstand the weather vagaries,” said Welsey Tonui the Sales Manager Kenya at Selecta Cut Flowers.

The breeder has set sights on global markets with production sites and sales offices spanning Europe, Africa, Asia, and America.
And to grow its foothold in the breeding markets, the company has been keen on partnerships which have delivered dividends. Earlier in the year, the company announced a long-term cooperation with Moraglia Breeding on the breeding of vegetatively propagated carnation cut flowers and other related species from dianthus family. Under the arrangement, for all marketable varieties resulting from the Moraglia breeding program, Selecta one will select varieties for worldwide commercialization under exclusive breeding and license agreements.

André Lek, Selecta cut Flowers’s Product manager in a statement released to the company said: “We see this as a great opportunity to expand and improve our product line, this allows us to work towards a common goal benefiting both. We have a strong team and already can see the promotion and sales of this assortment worldwide as a great success. The arrangement will allow both businesses to work and focus 100% on the responsibilities each member has already clearly defined.”

The breeder and Armada also jointly announced that the two companies were entering into a new strategic alliance starting 2022 as the Chrysanthemum markets of Kenya and Colombia would be transferred to Selecta one. The formalization of an already cooperation was meant to leverage each company’s unique strengths and assets; for Selecta one, the breeding program and genetics from Armada are a valued addition to their own range, where the successful supply chain, worldwide trial stations and extensive marketing and sales team are relevant to Armada.

Discussing the challenges that the company and the industry faces, Tonui says key among them remains supplying to growers then not getting paid for materials supplied which affects business operations.

Lack of water also remains the greatest threat in agriculture and it applies to breeders as well. According to Tonui, when water is available pest and diseases management becomes easy since growers can then apply Integrated Pest Management and conventional control.

“At the height of COVID, most of our customers closed shop. Those who went ahead with growing despite the uncertainties that loomed, reaped the benefits because we realized that there were new buyers who were not buying flowers before so in a matter of time, the market and demand went up rather than down. While prices have been good, expenses like air freight and fuel costs that affect transportation are eating into growers’ earnings. Freight costs also went from less than $2 a kilo to nearly $6. Although it has considerable come down at $3, it is still high,” Tonui notes of the dynamics of the pandemic that shaped the industry.

The high charges have inspired the industry to look at new, innovative, cost effective and sustainable ways of exporting flowers like sea freight. “There are still trials with sea freights to see which flowers would work well with sea transport. Carnations work well. Other products like gypsophila are also being tested. There are however challenges with this mode of transportation. If sea freight takes 30-40 days then it affects quality at the end of the day. Sea containers get lost which is something that must be addressed.

The company has invested in sustainability practices with a focus on planet and people. Its produces varieties that are insect-friendly and drought-tolerant.

In Wagagai production site Uganda, the breeder has invested in high quality water treatment allowing employees to have access to clean drinking water. The site also offers many community projects for local workers such as sports activities, children’s days, and training opportunities on the farm.

The production site has its own baby and childcare services for employees and it offers a place of retreat for nursing mothers.

At the Kenyan production site, the company has saved water by switching to substrate cultivation. Natural energy is supplied by the solar panels in the farm.
The company provides free meals for employees at its southern production sites in Kenya and Uganda.

At Kenya and Uganda sites there are health centers with trained professionals and offering free consultations to employees on health issues such as HIV.

The breeder has created an internal sustainability committee to achieve a more intensive sustainable transformation of the Selecta one group.The breeder is looking at continuing with cross breeding and developing new varieties attributing to the changing global trends. According to Tonui, what excites the market now wasn’t the case years back. He further says that consumers are looking into new varieties and colours so which informs their business model.

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