Horti Fair - Getting back on the international track

Organisers of Europe's second largest horticultural trade show, Amsterdam's Horti Fair, hope this year will mark a turning point in the event's fortunes, which have ebbed in recent years to the benefit of the continent's biggest horticulture event, IPM Essen.

On the face of it, taking in a show that's a quick hop and a skip from a major international airport that also offers the charms of the Dutch capital in still balmy mid October sounds preferable to Germany's Ruhrgebiet in snowy late January.

But according to one show veteran: "First they moved Horti Fair to October, which meant they lost some of the cut-flower market. Then they moved it later in the day. With every change they gave up ground to IPM."

The changes took away one of the main cards in Horti Fair's pack - its proximity to the hot spots of international horticultural production and logistics - and were resented by many in Dutch floriculture in particular.

Into the space, this year sees the FloraHolland Trade Fair (formerly the Aalsmeer Trade Market) and the International Floriculture Trade Fair in nearby Vijfhuizen both running 3-5 November, coinciding with an open-house programme at several growers.

Horti Fair is fighting back though and from next year will resume its position in November alongside the Aalsmeer events, creating a week-long industry focus provisionally named "Horti Week".

The Commercial Horticulture Association (CHA) has promoted UK exhibitors at Horti Fair for many years. Marketing manager Stuart Booker says: "The changes of the past two or three years haven't worked well with other events. But there have been several internal changes at Horti Fair recently, and they're now hoping that international visitors can go to all the events and grower open days at the same time."

Seen in that light, 2010 will be a "consolidating year" for the show, he adds. "For that reason, it's important to keep a strong UK presence this year, so we will be well placed next year."

Another charge against the show, recently made in the Dutch trade press, is that it is too technology-focused. It is true that there is a lot of it, but what technology it is. Entries for the show's Innovation Award provide a snapshot of state-of-the-art horticulture.

"It's still strong on the technology side - visitor numbers are up there," says Booker. "However, the green element has been quite drastically reduced."

The CHA has 19 confirmed exhibitors in the British pavilion, five of which were among the hundred or so submitting entries to the Innovation Award. Sadly, none made the shortlist of ten - which, tellingly, includes only one new plant entry.

But Booker is upbeat. "The numbers of UK entrants have been increasing, which we are pleased to see," he says. "For UK companies, Horti Fair is an opportunity to launch products to international markets, and competing for the award reinforces that."

Some exhibitors aim to be more canny in not disclosing new lines until after the show has started. "This increases the buzz and publicity around Horti Fair," claims the event's managing director Wim van der Loo.

Wiltshire-based pest product specialist Agralan has been a regular exhibitor at the show for the past ten years. Development manager Mike Abel says this year the focus will be on the company's raspberry beetle trap, developed at the Scottish Crop Research Institute as part of a government-backed HortLink project.

"Though designed to monitor rather than control the beetles, they can reduce numbers sufficiently to avoid the need for spraying," he says. "That makes the traps attractive to amateur growers too, who have even fewer pesticides available to them."

Abel, for one, hopes the show's hours will be reconsidered next year along with its positioning on the calendar. "Staying open until seven allows local growers to come in after work, but they're not much interested in us and vice versa. I understand exhibitors who slip off early."

Show details

Where Amsterdam RAI - 15-minute train journey from Schiphol Airport or 12-minute tram journey from Amsterdam Central station. By car, off junction S109 of Amsterdam's A10 orbital motorway.

When Tuesday 12 October to Friday 15 October (10am-7pm)

Admission Free on registration at www.hortifair.com/tickets

Continental breakfast

Horti Fair's series of breakfast briefings has in the past rather belied the show's international image because they were all held in Dutch. But now four of the series will be in English:

- Tuesday 12 October: The Adaptive Glasshouse

Representatives of Dutch horticulture research institute Wageningen UR will explain how glasshouse production can be made more efficient by being tailored to local environmental conditions.

- Wednesday 13 October: The Global Marketing Opportunity of Flower Bulb Names

How can naming and registering a bulb variety form the focus of sales promotions? Three case studies will be discussed.

- Wednesday 13 October: Closing Water and Nutrient Cycles

How smarter effluent management and the use of sensors to monitor leaching of fertilisers can increase the efficiency of water use in the glasshouse.

- Friday 15 October: Dutch Challenges in Global Horticultural Industry

A presentation made by Greenport Holland International chairman Harm Maters.

All briefings are held in the RAI exhibition centre from 8.30am to 10am. Positions can be pre-booked via series sponsor Syntens at www.syntens.nl.

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