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The next horticultural generation is ready to conquer the world. Or rather improve it, if it’s up to them. What drives this younger generation? What do they find important and what do they seek in their future horticultural jobs?

We asked students from the HAS University of Applied Sciences in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, about their dreams and ambitions… They shed an interesting light on what the future of horticulture holds! 

Meet the

next
generation

of horticultural professionals

(23), Germany, 4th year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: Getting ready to take over his father’s horticultural business

Marcel Bongartz 

I think marketing automation and deep learning are part of our horticultural future

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Marcel Bongartz is dedicated to take over his father’s horticultural business with around 70 employees. Marcel: “Once I decided to lead our family’s business, I started working in the sector and really liked the study at the HAS because you work with companies on real cases, so you can apply your knowledge directly.”

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I strive for plant perfection

Harmke Broekhuis

(20), The Netherlands, 2nd year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: researching development and innovation

Harmke Broekhuis is a second year Horticulture & Business Management student at the HAS University of Applied Sciences. After finishing her secondary and intermediate education level focused on horticulture, it was at her Saturday job at a pot plant breeder that she realized she wanted to expand her knowledge further. Harmke: “With things like fertilizers, growth enhancers and soil improvers you can reach around 95% of your grower’s goals. But I want to be able to answer the questions on how to get to a 100%. I like to strive to plant perfection.”

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(22), Venezuela, 4th year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: Help build up Venezuela by sharing gained knowledge

Soleil Mora Garcia 

My dream is to one day take my knowledge to Venezuela and help the industry to develop again.

“I lived in Costa Rica, when I heard of HAS University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands”, says Soleil. “The Netherlands is quite big in plant breeding and a lot of important companies are here. I also really like the different perspectives on horticulture my study is teaching me. For instance, researchers are always quite focused on the details and what is best for the growth of the plant.

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I see myself working on the business side of horticulture

Violeta Angelova

(27), Bulgaria, 4th year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: Developing new concepts and business for the horticulture market

Violeta Angelova was born in Bulgaria and lives in The Netherlands since the beginning of her study at the HAS. She is especially interested in the business side of her study. Violeta: “The new marketing possibilities are important. To interact and react to changes in consumer behaviour, especially now during the corona crisis, we need to implement online marketing and e-commerce in our horticultural businesses.”

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About HAS

HAS University of Applied Sciences specializes in horticulture, agri-food and environment. The university has two locations in The Netherlands and welcomes students from all over the world. Approx. 3,700 full-time students study 13 higher professional education programs, including a special graduate program for entrepreneurship. In addition, over 500 students attend various company courses and in-company training courses every year. As an expertise centre, HAS University of Applied Sciences focuses on research, advice and product development, both in the Netherlands and abroad.

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Meet the

next
generation

of horticultural professionals

I strive for plant perfection

Harmke Broekhuis

(20), The Netherlands, 2nd year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: researching development and innovation

Harmke Broekhuis is a second year Horticulture & Business Management student at the HAS University of Applied Sciences. After finishing her secondary and intermediate education level focused on horticulture, it was at her Saturday job at a pot plant breeder that she realized she wanted to expand her knowledge further. Harmke: “With things like fertilizers, growth enhancers and soil improvers you can reach around 95% of your grower’s goals. But I want to be able to answer the questions on how to get to a 100%. I like to strive to plant perfection.”

marcel.jpg

I think marketing automation and deep learning are part of our horticultural future

Marcel Bongartz 

(23), Germany, 4th year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: Getting ready to take over his father’s horticultural business

Marcel Bongartz is dedicated to take over his father’s horticultural business with around 70 employees. Marcel: “Once I decided to lead our family’s business, I started working in the sector and really liked the study at the HAS because you work with companies on real cases, so you can apply your knowledge directly.”

Brecht

I want to help my company flourish with all the knowledge
I gain

Brecht Tielemans 

(23), The Netherlands, Entrepreneur,  4th year student Horticulture & Arable Farming
Focus: Took over the company of his uncle, together with his younger brother

Brecht Tielemans is just a few months away from graduating, and recently took over his uncle’s nursery, together with his younger brother. Brecht: “My study both focusses on plants and business. After my internship in Australia, I finished a minor in business administration which helped me write the business plan for the take-over. I felt ready for it.” 

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I want to share our knowledge on biological pest control and sustainability globally

Nick Vos 

(22), The Netherlands, 2nd year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: Biological pest-control

Nick Vos already knew during his intermediate education that he wanted to specialize in pest-control. “I like to solve problems”, he says. “The problems and suitable approach differ for each plant and plant phase.

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I see myself working on the business side of horticulture

Violeta Angelova

(27), Bulgaria, 4th year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: Developing new concepts and business for the horticulture market

Violeta Angelova was born in Bulgaria and lives in The Netherlands since the beginning of her study at the HAS. She is especially interested in the business side of her study. Violeta: “The new marketing possibilities are important. To interact and react to changes in consumer behaviour, especially now during the corona crisis, we need to implement online marketing and e-commerce in our horticultural businesses.”

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I want to work for a company investing in innovations

Krijn Overbeeke 

(19), The Netherlands, 2nd year student Horticulture & Arable Farming
Focus: Cultivator of an innovative grower company

Krijn has a hands-on, practical approach to problems. He is a hard worker and sees himself as a cultivator or fore man at an innovative company with a small team. “I want to work for a company that invests in innovations, such as drip irrigation. Many tree nurseries are not yet working with them, but it saves 70% water, decreases the chance of fungi, and thus minimizes the use of chemicals.”

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I want to tell them the story behind the flowers and plants

Dean Zuidgeest

(23), The Netherlands, 4th year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: starting up his own company to grow curcuma and sell directly to consumers

Dean Zuidgeest is in his 4th year and is focusing on starting his own business in the coming months. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as his father has a nursery in curcuma plants. Dean: “I am not sure yet if, eventually, I want to take over my father’s business. I like to focus on my own for now. Instead of working with a supply chain, I’d rather sell my products directly to the consumer.

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While studying, it became clear to Harmke that it is not so much the marketing and business side of horticulture she is interested in. It is research in innovation and development that makes her tick. “There are so many interesting developments in our industry. Hydroponics, improving plants through propagation from tissue culture, and growing with (coloured) LED lights. For instance, here at the HAS we are researching how processes within the plants are reacting to different coloured lights. It is very interesting.”
“After my studies, I would like to do a Master to further specialize in plant development and innovation. In the future, I see myself working in a research position or at a progressive company. Responsibility, trust, innovation and teamwork are important to me.”

He is already taking notes on things he would like to improve in the company: “The company needs to get more digital. I think overall the horticultural industry is a bit behind on digitalization, but I would like to get experts involved to improve the selling process, especially online. I think marketing automation, deep learning and artificial intelligence are important innovations and part of our horticultural future.”

"Another thing I would like to change is the way leadership is done. It is my dream to employ people not because of their expertise, but mainly because of their personal values. Skills can be learned, but your



values make you a match with our company and team. I want to help people to become the best versions of themselves in the company.”

Marcel’s father understands the changes he wants to make in the company and encourages him. Marcel: “He knows, because he took over the company from his dad too. It is important that young people are more involved in how interesting our industry can be. Therefore, we can’t miss the potential of online marketing and social media. This could change the image of our industry. It changes the idea that we all work on a field with straw hats on and a fork in our hands.”

Managing a business is not new for Brecht, as his parents have an asparagus farm. “Both my brother and I have learned to take our responsibility quite early. We have always been involved in the asparagus business of our parents. The problem I found, is that both the asparagus business as well as the shrubs nursery is seasonal work, and it is hard to find good and loyal personnel. We decided to combine both businesses, so we could secure a year-round salary for our workers. This is very valuable to us. In the future, we want to merge the company of my parents with ours, but we are not yet sure how.”



Brecht is still learning a lot from his uncle, but he already has a few ideas about improvements he would like to make. “We would like to keep growing shrubs, but maybe introduce some new species. And my uncle has a more traditional view on the business, while we would like to start digitalizing, gathering data, and use it to make more calculated decisions in terms of plant growth and nutrition, for instance.”

There is a lot of variety in the job of biological pest control advisor. Besides, the constantly changing regulations force us to find alternatives for chemicals and to focus on prevention rather than solving. For instance, hygiene and more efficient growing are important elements in preventing fungi, bacteria or viruses. But I don’t see pesticides disappearing entirely. The consumer demands high quality crops and to meet these demands we need to use chemicals. Biological treatments just don’t work immediately and it doesn't cure the pest completely, so a pest or plague can still cause damage.” 


During his internship, Nick worked at a Chrysanthemums breeder in South Africa. This is where he got inspired to a more international ambition. “It is my goal to become a biological pest-control advisor, preferably internationally. I want to share our knowledge on biological solutions and sustainability worldwide. Though the different challenges in different regions also interest me, we all need to grow cleaner, more sustainable and with less chemicals. These goals are not bound to one country and I want to help reach these goals on a global level.”

Bulgaria is known for the Bulgarian rose, used for essential oils and perfume. When she moved to the Netherlands, Violeta was surprised to see that the scent of flowers is not a big thing here. “In Bulgaria we would first assess a flower by its smell, here it is more about shelf life. I guess that is why I’m a fan of lavender”, she laughs.

For her future, Violeta has no strict direction yet and a lot of ideas. “I like new concepts. During the corona crisis there was this initiative of consumers being able to buy surprise boxes with flowers online. These were rejected potted plants, plants that didn’t make it through the quality control. But there is still a market for it and the flowers didn’t have to go to waste. I like that. These kind of new and fresh initiatives make our industry also more attractive to young people. I see myself working on the business side of horticulture. Maybe in supply chain planning, or translating research into concepts the market is asking for.”


At the moment, Krijn works at a tree nursery in his spare hours. Krijn: “We are getting a drip irrigation system next year. I love the variety of my profession; solving problems, always striving to improve and realise better results, the process of pruning and fertilizing, etc. Every day holds new surprises and challenges, and my study gives me the extensive knowledge about, for instance, plant processes and plant-soil interactions.”



Krijn understands why the younger generation might not be interested in a career in horticulture. “It can be hard work sometimes and I guess not everyone is willing to pull out weeds for a few days in a row in summertime. But there are many interesting challenges and getting the responsibility to grow crops in the best way possible is what I like best. I hope others will see that too.”

I really like the contact and direct feedback from customers and I want to tell the story behind the flowers. Curcuma flowers are very special as they give a small flower every day and being freshly cut, their shelf life can be up to three weeks.” Dean’s start-up goes by the name ‘Kurkuma Store’.

There is no doubt that Dean is a true entrepreneur, as he knows how to turn a problem into an opportunity. Dean: “When the corona crisis started, we had to throw a lot of our curcuma production away. To help the growers out, I started a garden sale. Growers could apply online, bring us their pot plants and we would distribute it to volunteers, who sold the plants from their backyards. Most of the flowers and plants sold out and it was a lot of fun.”

The image of the horticultural sector is still about hard work in the field, according to Dean. But with online marketing and automation being just two of the many developments in the industry, it is time to change that image. Dean: “The sector is complex, interesting and multidisciplinary. A bigger horticultural business would also need marketeers and accountants. Nowadays, many growers start to develop their own products as well and innovations, such as vertical farming, attract (international) students.”


About HAS

HAS University of Applied Sciences specializes in horticulture, agri-food and environment. The university has two locations in The Netherlands and welcomes students from all over the world. Approx. 3,700 full-time students study 13 higher professional education programs, including a special graduate program for entrepreneurship. In addition, over 500 students attend various company courses and in-company training courses every year. As an expertise centre, HAS University of Applied Sciences focuses on research, advice and product development, both in the Netherlands and abroad.

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“I lived in Costa Rica, when I heard of HAS University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands”, says Soleil. “The Netherlands is quite big in plant breeding and a lot of important companies are here. I also really like the different perspectives on horticulture my study is teaching me. For instance, researchers are always quite focused on the details and what is best for the growth of the plant.

The business side of horticulture would rather look at the benefits for the company and the cost. The multidisciplinary setting of my study helps me to look at solutions that take into account these different point of views.”

Soleil was born in Venezuela, a country that is currently suffering from a political, economic and humanitarian crisis. Production and quality of crops in both the horti- and agricultural sector have decreased and it could take a lot of time to build up the country again. Soleil: “It is my dream to one day take all my knowledge to Venezuela and help the industry to develop again. As both water and fertilizers are scarce, I think we need to look at variety production and genetics, for instance, in order to minimize the input and produce higher yields. There is a lot of work to do. Growing a plant is really complex, it’s a tricky path.”

One of the most important developments in our industry is automation, according to Soleil. “There is an annual scientific challenge which involves the growth of tomatoes without any human interaction, to see which group realizes the highest yield. Basically the robots and sensors in the greenhouse do all the work!”


(22), Venezuela, 4th year student Horticulture & Business Management
Focus: Help build up Venezuela by sharing gained knowledge

Soleil Mora Garcia 

soleil.jpg (copy)

My dream is to one day take my knowledge to Venezuela and help the industry to develop again.

About The Green Times

ICL takes you behind the scenes of ornamental horticulture in The Green Times magazine. New developments, insights and impactful stories about and for professional growers around the world.
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