Last year's revamped Horti Fair event in Amsterdam appeared to signal a revival in fortunes for the world's number-two horticultural trade event. However, the event hit a hiccup with the sudden departure of show director Frans-Peter Dechering at the start of last month.
With Dechering and the show's organisers remaining tight-lipped on the reasons behind the split, Horti Fair board member Willem Luuk Nijdam then took over as interim manager.
Fellow board member and Horticoop chief executive officer Igo Janssen says the board is eager to continue the upward trend set by last year.
"This will mean some hard work because Horti Fair is also noticing the effect of the economic crisis on global horticulture," he says. "Even so, we're investing all of our efforts in making Horti Fair 2012 even better."
He adds: "We received many, many positive reactions from exhibitors after Horti Fair 2011. Visitor numbers rose and so did the quality of these visitors."
The Commercial Horticulture Association will again oversee the British pavilion of exhibitors. Manager Stuart Booker agrees that the event has turned itself around.
"Last year, they brought in new directors and took on board the input from the industry," he says. "The majority of our group felt it was moving in the right direction and that there was a better buzz around, with new activities and initiatives, though some worked better than others. Time will tell whether they now get in the right visitor base. It's been a difficult year all round."
The change in opening hours to a more manageable 10am-6pm is another sign that organisers have listened to exhibitors' concerns, he adds. "It means you don't hit the morning traffic but can also get away at a reasonable hour and still do something in the evening."
The show also continues to promote itself internationally as "having expanded in three dimensions", with tie-ins to other simultaneous events making up for a reduced exhibitor space at the core show. Services such as shuttle buses to the FloraHolland Trade Fair in Aalsmeer and to the International Floriculture Trade Fair in nearby Vijfhuizen "have kept people positive about the show", Booker adds.
For all the changes, however, glasshouse technology remains at the core of Horti Fair, as well as accounting for ten of the 11 finalists in the innovation award, for which the winner will be revealed at the start of the show.
Among those on the shortlist, the SuprimAir greenhouse from Certhon (stand number 11.0302) is described by the jury as "integrating recent developments in various fields".
Certhon research and development head John van der Sande says: "Under the concept, the greenhouse, ventilation windows, ventilation, heating, cooling, lighting and control are fully integrated. We are the only company to have all those aspects under one roof."
While much of the technology can appear of interest only to high-end specialist growers, the CX500 from HortiMaX (11.0502) is said to be both scalable and exportable. A modular process computer that controls both the greenhouse climate and irrigation, it also caught the eyes of the jury, who described it as "suitable for small and large companies and a solution for many countries, climates and growers - an example of being customer-focused".
Outside of the contest, Priva (11.0604/08.0526) will extend its TopCrop monitoring and control system. Ventilation and heating modules were introduced last year and this year a third and final module, covering irrigation, will be unveiled, with a view to commercial introduction next year.
Priva UK commercial manager Nick Field says: "It consists of three infrared cameras looking at relative differences in temperature in different parts of the plant compared with the air temperature. That gives you an indication of plant activity and also disease pressure - the plant effectively becomes your sensor and you see the response immediately."
It has already been successfully trialled in both asters and cucumber crops, he adds, with the latter showing "a 10 per cent increase in yield straight away".
While no British exhibitors made the innovation award shortlist, the British pavilion (08.0222) will not be short of new products.
Manchester-based Cocogreen's new Cut & Go coir bags include a simple innovation, says sales manager Thomas Ogden.
"This design is based on our feedback from growers. We can supply bags with pre-cut holes, but often growers don't get their orders from the supermarkets until after they've ordered their bags.
"Different varieties require different spacing and the cutting template on the Cut & Go bag makes cutting holes a lot easier, quicker and less prone to error."
The pavilion will hold a reception on the Wednesday from 4.30pm. According to Booker: "We have done a lot of pre-event promotion, which will hopefully draw in more traffic. We will also invite the other international delegations to visit."
As well as a showcase for technical innovations, the event is also positioning itself as a policy forum. The International HortiCongress, which takes place on the morning of the opening day, takes as its theme horticulture's contribution to global well-being.
Chairman of the executive board of Wageningen University & Research Aalt Dijkhuizen will lead a discussion on how horticulture can respond to the challenge of an increasingly urbanised global population.
German entrepreneur and author Gunter Pauli and British architect and lecturer Carolyn Steel will propose ways in which horticulture can enhance quality of life, while chef and author Jeroen Van Oijen will show how trends often start in top gastronomy and how healthy enjoyment and a balanced plate are interrelated.
A further dimension to the show comes in the form of the HortiSeminars programme. Numbering four each day, these consist of relatively short (1.5 hour maximum) updates on topical issue from three different angles - knowledge, application and user.
The subjects being covered this year range from harnessing geothermal energy to tomato growing with the use of LEDs.
According to Van der Hoeven Horticultural Projects director Peter Spaans: "I think these seminars are a step in the right direction. They demonstrate the Netherlands' extensive horticultural expertise and show that this is a trade fair that focuses on the transfer of knowledge."
The seminars, which are held in English, have an admission fee of EUR40.
When: 30 October to 2 November, 10am-6pm
Where: RAI Europaplein 22, 1078 GZ Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Exhibitors: 550 expected
Showcase for new plants - Growers set to highlight their latest plant varieties
Belgian bromeliad specialist Exotic Plant (stand number 10.0208) boasts the sole plant entry in the shortlist for this year's innovation award. Vriesea Spica is a 60cm-tall houseplant with deep-red flower spikes thrusting out from strap-like foliage.
As ever, pot plant supplier Anthura (10.0305) will be unveiling new varieties to add to its trademark anthurium range, including A. andreanum 'Nubira', a large-flowering red form for 14cm and 17cm pots that will tolerate cooler temperatures.
KP Holland (10.0514) will present its kalanchoe Taranta Pretty Wild, a six-strong double-flowering series whose most striking feature is their narrow, jaggedly serrated leaves, described by the company as having "a wild and natural appearance". The series already boasts a dedicated website - pretty-wild.nl.
Fides (10.0306) will launch a New Guinea impatiens series, Tamarinda Max. They are large, vigorous plants for pots, bedding and hanging baskets with high heat tolerance and large flowers in a seven-strong colour range.
New products - Manufacturers turn spotlight on kit for growers
Developed with Wageningen University & Research, the Multifan V-FloFan is a vertical recirculation fan from Vostermans Ventilation (stand number 11.0509). With an aerodynamically-shaped outflow hood to maximise airflow, fewer of the energy-efficient fans are needed per hectare.
Likened to Lego blocks, the Modular Conveyor System from WPS Horti Systems (09.0102) allows growers to create and modify their own internal conveyor system using separate linkable transport elements. The systems can even be operated by smartphone.
Modiform (08.0301) has developed a new plug tray specifically for paper plugs. With drainage holes recessed by almost 1cm below the bottom of the plugs, the trays can be placed on wet or uneven surfaces without causing deterioration in the plugs.