Limgroup B.V.
Pioneers of F1 Hybrid Strawberries: Van der Avoird Trayplant

Pioneers of F1 Hybrid Strawberries: Van der Avoird Trayplant

In the second part of our series "Pioneers of F1 Hybrid Strawberries," we continue to highlight the key partners involved in this transition. In this edition, Arjan Hak, director at Van der Avoird Trayplant, discusses the unprecedented opportunities this transition offers.

In this article, you will read about:

  • Why Van der Avoird Trayplant, as an innovative player, wants to be part of this project;
  • How F1 Hybrid Strawberries ensure perfectly uniform strawberry fields;
  • How strawberries from seeds enable year-round cultivation.

Van der Avoird Trayplant is an innovative and leading player in the soft fruit sector, specializing in the cultivation of starting material for strawberries and raspberries. In fresh raspberry plants, the nursery is even the European market leader. From its headquarters in Bavel in the Netherlands, this pioneer in the sector continually searches for techniques and ways to make processes and products smarter, better, and more sustainable.

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"Our mission is to continuously innovate and lead the industry," Arjan Hak states. "I think this is also a key reason why Limgroup approached us three years ago to participate as a partner in the F1 Hybrid Strawberries project. Additionally, we have strong market relationships, enabling us to provide valuable input to this project."

Unparalleled uniformity
"At first glance, it seems quite contradictory," says Arjan. "As a propagator, our business largely involves creating daughter plants from a mother plant. If F1 Hybrid Strawberries become the standard, a large part of our process would essentially become obsolete. Our machinery, time, and space would no longer be needed, as you can simply sow as many seeds as needed as a propagator. Normally, it would be strange to actively work on a transition that effectively poses a threat to us," Arjan notes. "However, we see things differently. Such progress cannot be halted. We prefer to actively participate and find our role within this transition, thereby gaining valuable knowledge and experience in cultivating the best plants from seeds. A major development like this is something we simply feel we have to be involved in."

Arjan also notes significant advantages in the shift from runners to seeds. "What immediately struck us in the trials was the uniformity of the plants. This is because the seeds all emerge and germinate at the same time. In the clonal process, you start cultivating strawberry tray plants with cuttings that are 3 weeks old along with runners that are 4 months old. You can clearly see this difference. Later generations of runners are always smaller than the first generations of a plant. The strawberry plants from seeds truly produce a beautiful, even field. This offers many advantages, allowing us to consistently provide beautiful and consistent plants to growers, which improves our competitive position. Growers also notice benefits in their processes: each plant uses the same amount of water, and the grower can much more easily optimize yield."

“As a forerunner, we simply have to be involved in a transition of this scale"

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Optimized planning
According to Hak, F1 Hybrid Strawberries also offer advantages in terms of planability. "You can sow seeds all year round; you could, metaphorically speaking, 'put them on the shelf' and sow them when needed. This allows for precise sowing at the right time, tailored to the grower's needs. This enables us to organize our process much more efficiently and maximize our greenhouse space. Additionally, because cultivating strawberry plants from seeds takes much less time than cultivating cooled plants from runners—which often require five months in the nursery—plants from seeds are considerably further along after just two months from transplanting.

Sustainability through innovation
"Sustainability is central to our operations, and we are actively seeking to claim a leadership role in this area. This involves applying as much organic pest control as possible and using chemical pesticides only as a last resort, never preventatively. Furthermore, we use WKO installations to heat our greenhouses, we recycle all our water, and we collect rainwater to minimize groundwater use. These and other measures underscore that sustainability is high on our agenda. We are constantly working to reduce our ecological footprint. In this, F1 Hybrid Strawberries can play a vital role, as their short cultivation period requires less pest control and water. These are very interesting aspects for us, which is why we keep a close eye on developments."

"Once the seed has been planted in the market, it will naturally germinate and something very beautiful can grow from it. I am convinced of that."

Spreading across the industry
Despite the aforementioned benefits in terms of uniformity, planning, and sustainability, Arjan Hak points out a few factors that will determine the pace of this transition. "It might seem odd to say in this article, but ultimately, it doesn't matter to the trade and consumers whether a strawberry comes from seed or from runner," he says. "What really matters is offering a high-quality and tasty strawberry. And from a trade perspective, production costs and selling price are crucial for growers. The market won't switch if the costs are too high. There are growers who are very traditional and won't switch immediately. On the other hand, there are also many companies that are innovative and very keen to run trials with new varieties. Therefore, I think once the market will start to recognize the advantages and the transition will begin to spread across the industry, it will take root and spread like an oil slick. To use the terminology: Once the seed has been planted in the market, it will naturally germinate and something very beautiful can grow from it. I am convinced of that."

Involved from the beginning
"We have seen how new varieties have quickly gained market share in the past, and I see no reason why it would be different with Limore. Therefore, it is good for our position that we have been involved from the very beginning and show this to the market. This always gives you an edge over parties that join later. Of course, as with any innovation, there are teething problems at the beginning. For example, plants now still having many runners, which you want to avoid in this process. However, I fully trust that Limgroup and its breeders will find a solution for this with their genetics. You cannot expect an innovation like this to be perfect from day one. For us, the most important aspect is to be present from the start at the launch and to gain knowledge and experience with strawberries from seeds. We are all very curious to see how this will develop and at what pace it will take over parts of the market. I think the entire sector is interested and is closely following F1 Hybrid Strawberries."

"Strawberries from seeds are a major innovation. This now enables us to deliver uniform, fresh plants to our customers year-round."