De Spanish Rose is in bloom, thanks to Dutch technology

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  • NRC
  • NRC
  • NRC
  • NRC
  • NRC

In the Spanish town of Garray, rose grower Aleia prepares for the most important day of the year. Approximately one million roses from the Spanish brand are selling for about 1.60 euro each. 

Spanish sun and Dutch technology. "A golden combination that allows us to grow the most beautiful red rose in the world. The Red Naomi ", says Luis Corella (60) proudly in the guest house of Aleia roses just outside the town of Garray. The room is full of roses that spread around a sweet smell. "Valentine's Day is the most important day of the year. Our flowers will spread over the whole world. Isn't it wonderful to be able to produce something like that? "

At the entrance of the company in the province of Soria is a huge heart made of a thousands of roses. A futuristic greenhouse of fourteen hectares is the showpiece. In the middle is a group of rose experts from the Netherlands who come to see the project with their own eyes. With slightly jealous glances they view the almost perfect greenhouse. Corella greets his visitors, occasionally pulls a leaf from a bush and pulls a grimace by the sight of a broken stem on the floor." The rose is the queen of flowers. And we make the most beautiful of its kind. Hundred thousand a day ", he says.

His dream of growing roses came to life carefully years ago. After a successful adventure as a tomato grower in Mexico, he returned to his native country in 2010 to focus on the flower market as a pioneer. Corella: "The cultivation of fruit and vegetables was very normal in Spain, but hardly anyone did anything with flowers. "Why not?" I thought. I saw a lot of opportunities for that. But Spanish banks were very reluctant. Flowers in a greenhouse? They did not see anything in that. "

Millions of spiders
Corella knew he could dependent on help from the Netherlands. The land of flowers. "Almost all know-how is traditionally in the Netherlands. Nobody can get around that. But one thing Spain has for the Netherlands: the sun. Roses need about six thousand hours of sun per year. "With 2,000 hours of sun a year more than in the Netherlands, Soria is the place to grow roses. As a result, the greenhouse does not have to be - or hardly need to be - lit up - unlike in the Netherlands. "If you can save thousands of hours of lighting in a greenhouse, that's worth millions of euros."

Corella found everything he needed on a deserted industrial estate: sunny days, cold nights and a river with clean water. Together with an American investment company, he spent 50 million euros on his new business, which in the future would have a turnover of 35 million euros per year. With the support of complete greenhouse company Dalsem from Den Hoorn in the Netherlands and the researchcenter and development of plants and flowers at the University of Wageningen, "the largest and most modern rose greenhouse in Europe" was built.

Corella now employs 350 people, including a number of Dutch people. The company has been operating at full strength since November of last year. Approximately one hundred million roses are marketed by FloraHolland during the week around Valentine's Day. Just under one million of the A-brand comes from Spain. They spend about 1.60 euros each this year. " The best Spanish ham comes from Jabugo and the most beautiful roses from Garray," says the CEO with a satisfied smile.

"No pesticides are used in this greenhouse. With millions of spiders we fight the harmful insects. This is also a very interesting workplace for the Dutch. It is a kind of laboratory to them. Our computers are continiously connected with those of the experts in Wageningen. The balance is kept constantly in order. Not everything is a success here. We tried to grow a White Naomi, but it attracted all the creatures of the world. "

Swiss bell
With Aleia Roses, Corella focuses on the upper segment of the flower market. The Red Naomi is a full red rose with eighty petals. The stem varies in length from seventy to ninety centimeters. The red rose is one of the best here at two hours from Madrid and eighteen hours from Aalsmeer. "Ninety percent of the roses come from outside Europe. From countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya and Ethiopia. Cultivation is much cheaper there. But those roses are of much less quality. They are transported by air without water and usually only last a few days. Actually, that is a completely different market. If you compare those roses with ours, like a Chinese watches compared to a Swiss clock. We are a very small player in the world market where about five billion roses are traded."

The approximately forty million roses that Aleia Roses produces annually go, for the most part, directly into trucks to the flower auctions in Aalsmeer, Naaldwijk and Rijnsburg. "More than half of world-trade goes through the Netherlands. The logistics there are amazing. We can not ignore that. In Spain there are almost no channels to flower shops. Even roses that are sold here first go to the Netherlands. All in all, you lose a week. That's how it works. Although we hope to find other ways in the future."

Corella hopes to be able to bring a cultural change with his roses in Spain. "On average, a European person spends seventy euros a year on flowers. The Dutchman top this with 80 euros above this number. But the Spaniard does not spend beyond 12 euros a year. The problem is that Spanish flower have 3 solid days to make their turnover a year: Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and All Souls. They will sell twelve roses for ninety euros. The flowers will fall over after a few days. 'A stupid luxury', we call that. "Buy me a plant next time," my mother always said when I gave roses. That will be of some use to me. "
Source: NRC - Koen Greven - 13/02/2018

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