Daniel De Steur
Managing director EROV

In Belgium, ornamental horticulture is mainly situated in Flanders with almost 90% of the area. The production value of the Flemish ornamental horticulture is estimated at 507 million € by 1.786 companies on 5.653 ha. 848 companies grow nursery stock on 4.154 ha with an estimated production value of 241 million € (1). East Flanders, one of the five Flemish provinces, is by far the most important province for ornamental horticulture. The production value of the ornamental culture is estimated at 257 million Euro; that’s almost half of the production value of Flanders (51%, 2008). 43% of the production area or 2.414 ha is located in East-Flanders as are 49% of the companies (883). East Flanders and more particular the Ghent region, has a heart function for the ornamental horticulture sector with the Florall fair (2 times a year), the research centers for ornamental horticulture PCS (‘Proefcentrum voor Sierteelt’, applied research) and ILVO (‘Instituut voor Landbouw- en Visserijonderzoek’, fundamental research) and the world event the Floralies of Ghent (every 5 years). The Economic Council for East-Flanders (EROV) is a non profit organisation, founded by the Provincial Government of East-Flanders. The mission of EROV is to improve the social economic structure and to support a sustainable economic development of the province of East-Flanders. EROV supports the management of SME’s in the profit, social profit and retail sector, promotes the regional products and supports the image of important sectors such as food & beverage, ornamental horticulture plants, textile and construction. EROV also enhances entrepreneurship, the cooperation between education and professionals and supports centre management in cities and municipalities. Especially concerning the ornamental culture, EROV supports the management, deploys initiatives to stimulate entrepreneurship, promotes the ornamental horticulture sector and its products and realises positive image building campaigns.  EROV organises two major events every year: ‘Op de Siertoer 4 Kids’ and ‘Op de Siertoer’. ‘Op de Siertoer 4 Kids’ is an educative project for 11-12 year old pupils that takes place in ornamental horticulture companies. Every year since 1995 on the third Sunday of September, the Economic Council for East-Flanders (EROV), organises ‘Op de Siertoer’. On that Sunday, in the whole region of Flanders, managers open the doors of their ornamental horticultural companies for the general public and organise guided tours for the visitors. Aim is to strengthen the image of the sector and promote the ornamental horticultural products in a general way. EROV works since 2007 in cooperation with the VLAM, Flanders’ Agricultural Marketing Board, to organise this mass event. An average of 20.000 consumers visits about 50 companies. Starting with the fourteenth edition (2008) EROV decided to put a special focus on corporate social responsibility. In that year water, especially water recirculation was chosen as sub them. The past edition, on 20 September 2009, had as sub theme energy. Within CSR, concerning energy, two points are important: rational energy use and the use of renewable energy. During the tours in the nurseries and glasshouses, the managers gave special attention to the measures they take to reduce the consumption of energy and to use renewable energy sources.

Rational energy includes all efforts made to enhance the efficiency of energy use. Meanwhile, a lot of these techniques are commonly used as for example the use of better isolating covering materials and energy screens. The Research Centre for Ornamental Horticulture Plants (PCS) at Destelbergen, that also participates in ‘Op de Siertoer’, conducts research on the use of light emitting diodes (LED’s) instead of other more energy consuming methods of lighting by sodium lamps in the culture of roses. PCS  also investigates the technique of temperature integration to save energy. Another technique to use energy as rational as possible is via the technique of cogeneration (combined heat and power, CHP). This is a potentially cost effective way of servicing the simultaneous heating and electrical demands of processes. Renewable energy sources are biomass, sun, wind, water and geothermic heat. The last one is not used in Flanders. Different examples of the use of biomass in ornamental horticulture companies were presented on ‘Op de Siertoer’. A producer of forest and hedging shrubs sells the base material for short rotation wood plantations. When the poplars are pruned in the fall, the cuttings of the branches  are collected, prepared, sorted and sold. Since 2008 a grower of Chrysanthemum, lavender and perennials planted his own production fields (2 ha) of short rotation wood (willow). This year the willow will be harvested a first time, dried in a storage room and burned in a wood gasification boiler. From then his greenhouses will be heated for two thirds byhis short rotation wood.  Some companies demonstrated their wood fired boilersusing dried  chips of spruce, willow or poplar for heating their greenhouses.  Visitors of ‘Op de Siertoer’ could see panels of photovoltaic cells mounted upon a tube in two different ornamental horticultural companies. These photovoltaic units rotate during the day to maximise the return.

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