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Rose farm post production

How the Coronavirus has Impacted the Rose Industry in Ecuador

This global pandemic has impacted everyone around the world from health to the economy. In an effort to curve the increase of cases of the coronavirus we have all been adhering to social distancing and sanitation practices.

 

Businesses have been struggling to stay afloat while others have had to close their doors. The floral industry has been affected by the low demand for flowers and worldwide shutdown—and the Dutch floral sector is one of many examples of the unfortunate dump of thousands and thousands of flowers that have perished.

 

In Ecuador, roses are one of the top exports and contributor to its economy. This pandemic however has decreased the production and exportation of roses to countries around the globe. We interviewed Esteban Chiriboga, President of Ecoroses, our top rose provider located in Machachi, Ecuador. We asked some questions to get a firsthand perspective of the staggering effect the situation has had on the rose industry.

 

How has the situation concerning the coronavirus affected your business?

 

We first began experiencing the impact of the coronavirus from some of the European and Chinese markets where the effects of the virus have been dramatic. Our exports to those markets reached zero and slowly but surely other European countries have followed suit. Some states in the USA, and later others, and finally the Russian market also shut down, making our current exportations practically zero. There are flights available to ship flowers, but there are internal restrictions in each country that impede operations.

 

The emergence of the virus in Ecuador and its dissemination has also affected us, given that we have restrictions on operations for personnel and supplies.

 

We have decided to carry out certain tasks by working from home, some of the administrative, and we have let 50 percent of our field personnel go home to remain in quarantine. The other half of our employees are carrying out minimal work such as caring for the plants and processing a small quantity of roses. We are working 6 hours and 4 days per week. The effect and loss are enormous, but we are following strict guidelines to avoid the spread of the virus.

 

In percentage, how much has the demand for roses decreased for your company?

 

The first week it reduced 30 percent, the second week 70 percent, and this week we ended with 90 percent of decreased sales. Additionally, the payments from some clients have been delayed and our obligations must continue.

 

How many stems per day are being processed?

 

At this moment, we are processing almost below the order requests for some clients, an average of 8,000 stems per day from the average of 80,000 stems we harvest per day. The flowers that are not processed go directly to be destroyed and transformed into compost, an organic fertilizer.

 

What is being done to care for the plants while the demand for roses is low?

 

The most basic—we are irrigating and fertilizing daily but at minimal dosage. We are trying to minimize the diseases and plagues by removing the flowers that are overdue for cutting so that it does not rot the plants, and harvest roses that are left to sell.

 

What precautions and protocols are you practicing during this pandemic?

 

We have implemented a very strict protocol that begins with allowing the people most vulnerable or high risk to remain at home, provision of the security team, training our employees on sanitation and precautions to carry out in the workplace and at home to stay healthy, disinfecting all vehicles of transportation for personnel, as well as disinfection of every person that enters or leaves the farm property. Additionally, by having half of our employees stay home, we minimize the density of persons in each area of the farm property and departments.

 

What problems have you encountered as a result of limitations or regulations, and how have you resolved or adapted to these challenges to come through for your clients?

 

The authorities have allowed us to work and consider us a priority sector because our exportations help sustain Ecuador’s economy. They have granted us safe passageways to transit through and reach the airport. We have been able to do all this, but unfortunately some flights have been canceled or product has not been able to be exported because the country of destination has been shut down; in this case, nothing can be done, and we understand and accept if our client must cancel. We remain operational and we are ready to react and attend to any of our clients’ requirements.

 

What inspirational message would you like to share with the world? What can flowers contribute during these challenging times?

 

A message of hope on one hand, given that this eventually will be over, and we will have to adjust to the new reality and resume our lives and businesses. On the other hand, I would like to share a message of reflection to everyone that yes, flowers are not an indispensable article for the body or for life, but they are for the soul and for the spirit. We unite with the campaign: Buy Flowers Not Toilet Paper.

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The Role of Greenhouses in Rose Production

Nature has given us beautiful flowers in different shapes, sizes, and colors, but without a doubt the ones that stand out the most for the multitude of color variations are roses. At Virgin Farms we are known for offering the highest quality of every flower type imaginable. We have top-grade roses in every shade and style to satisfy the tastes of our customers.

We had the pleasure of interviewing two of our most important suppliers from the farms Ecoroses and Flowerfest in Ecuador. Wilfrido Cazar from Ecoroses, and Santiago SantillĂĄn from Flowerfest, shared their knowledge on the interesting process of maintaining the striking colors of roses.

Weather conditions and greenhouses provide us with roses in fascinating shades

In previous visits, we have seen the entire production process, but this time we wanted to get up close to the technology that exists to retain the extraordinary colors of roses throughout the production stage. We discovered that there are three fundamental factors to obtain a flower with perfect petals and flashy colors.

The first is the climatic conditions of the area. Roses grow in temperate climates in regions with moderate temperatures and are located at least 2,400 meters above sea level. Farms are usually in zones with low humidity, very little wind or cloud cover, and where there is plenty of sunlight.

The second contributing factor is the type of plastic used in greenhouses. Its function is to filter the sunlight properly within the nursery. Too much sun can burn the petals, and some colors such as red roses are more sensitive to sunlight.

Lastly, the control of temperature and humidity within the greenhouse is key to color preservation. As we walked through large hectares of plantations with Wilfredo Cazar of Ecoroses, we conversed about the three types of greenhouse plastics that exist, which are arranged according to the color of the rose. The process begins by selecting the variety of the rose to be planted. Once this is determined the corresponding greenhouse plastic is placed, which, according to its specific characteristics, will allow sufficient light through to nourish the rose.

The three types of plastic material for the nurseries have varying concentrations to allow the sun’s rays to filter ultraviolet.

For solid-colored roses, such as white and red, plastic with 100% UV filter is used. This type of greenhouse plastic aims to prevent the flower from tanning because if this happens the petals begin to burn; a term in the floriculture industry referred to as blackening.

For bi-color roses in shades, such as yellows and oranges, another type of plastic allowing 50% of ultraviolet light is used. These colors do not need as much UV protection unlike the white and the red varieties. The objective of allowing a specific percentage of ultraviolet light allows the color of the rose to intensify.

For color-edged roses, which are those that have a different color on the edge of the petal-like Paloma or Deep Purple, a plastic with zero filters is placed for the greenhouse, allowing sunlight to pass through completely. As a result, the colors of the roses are accentuated, especially the upper part of the petals. The red-edged roses become more blazing and the yellow-edged roses more vivid.

Greenhouse plastic is normally changed for red and white roses after a period of two years and plastics for the other types of shades after a period of three years. This is because the filter starts losing its effect due to the UV rays.

Temperature stability guarantees the production of roses in the greenhouse

For rose cultivation, depending on the area, high-tech greenhouses are often used with heating systems, as well as humidity and temperature control.

The climate in Ecuador throughout the year is temperate; however, in the months of June to September it is hotter and in the months from January to April it is the rainy season. Therefore, the temperature inside the greenhouses must always be monitored, so that it is not affected by heat or rain.

Inside the covers, there is a constant balance of temperature and humidity. In case the temperature rises, the side curtains of the greenhouse are opened so that the air circulates to prevent diseases from developing and affecting the roses.

In the rainy season, greenhouses are kept at a higher temperature so as not to affect the coloring of the rose. With more rain, the humidity increases, and this can cause fungus on the flower. Therefore, when the temperature is increased, the humidity decreases the cycle of the fungus and eliminates it, preventing the flower from being damaged.

Similarly, if the ambient temperature drops or there is frost, heaters are placed in the greenhouses to keep the flowers in optimal terms. When the temperature drops significantly, the rose goes into dormancy and stops producing blooms. Temperature stability guarantees the quality of production.

 

The altitude above sea level guarantees a flower with a more intense coloration 

The climatic conditions in Ecuador are extremely favorable because the plants are at 3,200 meters above sea level and the climate is constant. The temperature throughout the year fluctuates between 64°F to 71°F. Roses may be grown at 2,400 meters high, but higher altitude increases the robustness of roses resulting in bigger, thicker stems and intense colors.

Ecuadorian roses are world-famous because of these climatic conditions. They stand out for their dazzling colors, their button size, and the length of the stem. The roses produced at higher altitudes are the best because although the production and growth time of the flower is slower, quality is much superior. Farms in areas where the altitude is lower, productivity increases but the rose does not achieve the same characteristics of a rose grown highest above sea level. Therein lies their difference. In lower height more production, but smaller stems and buds.

Fertilization is also important to maintain the color of the rose. From Monday to Sunday the crops are watered using a fertilization formula that provides the rose with specific nutrients that help the stem grow and intensify the rose button’s color.

 

Roses for all styles

Rafael SantillĂĄn from Flowerfest elaborated on another type of rose which are tinted or dyed. In addition to roses in natural colors, you can create flowers of any color. Any variety can be transformed into a tinted flower, but white is normally used. The process consists of selecting the variety to be dyed. It is harvested, processed and dehydrated for 10 to 13 hours, depending on the type of rose and the weather.

To make the rainbow roses, five cuts are made at the base of the stem and hydrated in a container of colored water, which is left to absorb the dye for an average of 9 to 10 hours.

Painted roses are created by spraying the petals using a special technique. With vegetable dyes, the flower can be given any type of coloration. This technique also is used to spray paint just the edges of the rose, such as the Purple Intrigue and Blue Intrigue roses. This depends on the style requests and needs of each market, SantillĂĄn commented.

Being able to visit the farms and delve into their processes and continue to strengthen ties with our strategic partners is of great importance to Virgin Farms. Having the opportunity to learn about the materials used for greenhouses and immersing ourselves in the world of color that rose bushes offer us is truly fascinating.

The use of greenhouses at farms makes it possible to cultivate flowers. Large hectares of land are planted with the most beautiful varieties, which the world then gets to enjoy. Thanks to the climatic conditions of the region, the altitude above sea level and the strict production operations, roses are obtained in different color ranges.

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How Do Flower Growers Prepare for Valentine’s Day?

One of the most important dates for the flower business is Valentine’s Day, and without a doubt the protagonists of this date, are the flowers, especially the red roses. They make their journey from the volcanic lands of the Andes, so that the lovers and all those who celebrate friendship and love can count on the most beautiful flowers that day.

How Do Flower Growers Prepare for Valentine’s Day?

Roses Plants

The roses from Virgin Farms for Valentine’s Day come mainly from the Ecuadorian floriculture, which are planted at the altitude of 3,000 meters. At this level, the temperature in these areas is approximately 57.2 ° F.

In this equatorial region, the sun’s rays fall perpendicularly on the rose plantations for 12 hours a day, and this makes the color of the roses more intense and their button size larger, which is why these roses are considered the most alluring in the world.

To learn more about how our cut rose suppliers are preparing for this date, we had the pleasure of talking with Rafael SantillĂĄn from Flower Fest, who explained in detail how farms prepare to supply the high demand for flowers on the 14th of February.

It should be noted that roses are produced year-round, but the highest demand for roses is for Valentine’s Day. It all begins by prepping the land for the rose plants. The soil is disinfected, and the rose beds are created for the planting process. The beds measure an average of 31 cm in depth, and the distance between each plant is 15 to 17 cm. After this, the plant begins to sprout. The flowering cycle lasts between 3 to 4 months depending on the variety.

Throughout the flowering stage of a rose bush, the rose has a very vegetative life. During this time, the stem hardens, and the leaves and the thorns become larger making its appearance more enhanced. At this phase, the rose’s button size is more substantial with an incredibly striking color. It is thought that for February 14th planting is increased, but this is not so. Instead, the procedure for pruning the bushes is modified. This operation begins in mid-October, when the most significant number of stems and smaller sprouts are left in the rose bush, which will grow again and bloom the last days of January and first days of February.

Throughout the year, about 1 to 1.1 roses are produced per plant, per month. For Valentine’s Day, three roses per plant are produced for the Valentine’s Day harvest, which gives a reference for engineers throughout the year to plan and optimize the most significant production for February. The date of cutting the stems at the precise aperture is what guarantees that the flowers are ready on the required date. This process is a combination of science and knowledge that Ecuadorian floriculturists have obtained in more than 50 years of floriculture in Ecuador.

Once this cut has been made, the flowers begin to bloom from the end of December and reach their optimum opening point between January 15 and February 3 and are dispatched to the United States between January 25 and 28. Flowers will be on the market before February 12, the date on which roses are already being sold for Valentine’s Day.

 How Do You Guarantee That the Flowers Have a Greater Durability in a Vase?

Many factors should be considered to obtain quality flowers that guarantee the quality and duration of the roses in a vase. Among the main ones, we can highlight the fact that Virgin Farms purchases flowers directly from the farms. These, in turn, possess the highest quality standards. Our suppliers have certified processes when watering the plantations. They have the appropriate hydration solutions so that our customers have roses free of bacteria, diseases, or parasites.

The Transport of the Flower Is a Race Against Time

In addition to the entire production and post-harvest process, there are other factors to ensure that the flowers have the best possible durability. One of them is transport, and the other is the cold chain. For this reason, floriculturists have adequate facilities and are owners of the entire cold chain, which ranges from when roses are in the floriculture in the cold room until they are shipped to their destination. This process is why, in trucks where flowers are transported, the temperature must be constant between 35 ° to 39 ° F so that the flowers do not wilt. Another fundamental aspect of transport is the humidity of the air, the same air that is measured with special sensors to guarantee the ideal humidity.

 

Once the flowers have left the farm, they are transported via air to the United States. The shipments of roses arrive at the Quito airport, which is located about two hours from the floricultural sector.

This airport is specialized for the transport of floral cargo, which has a platform with extensive terminal areas to simultaneously park large aircrafts for the transport of roses. One of the advantages of this terminal is that it is located at 2,800 meters above sea level. The shipment is delivered to the terminal at dawn at a temperature of 53.6 ° F. Therefore, when the roses leave the inspection and pre-shipment rooms, their temperature does not vary significantly.

When the flowers arrive at the cargo terminal, the employees quickly transport the boxes to the vehicles, weigh them, measure them, take their temperature, and finally place them on pallets. One by one, the packages are loaded forming blocks that are arranged with molds. Another group of employees awaits shipments in the cold room. On this site, the flowers remain an hour and a half, until they can be embarked on cargo planes, which are also refrigerated. One of the cargo aircrafts that is used is the KLM Boeing 747, which can carry approximately 90 tons of flowers.

Without a doubt, being able to transport flowers to their destination is a race against time, but that is done methodically with standards and established procedures so that the flowers reach their destination in the shortest possible time.

When the transport arrives at the terminal in Miami, the flowers are immediately refrigerated in a cooling facility to maintain their duration.

Roses for Every Preference

The flowers preferred by the consumer to give on this date are red roses, but there are also pink, fuchsia, and spray roses (mini roses). Many bouquets for Valentine’s Day are complemented with white roses and gyp, a filler that takes on a significant role because it is the perfect complement to harmonize and fill the bouquets. The most popular varieties for this occasion are Freedom for its bright red color; Explorer, with a darker red hue; Hearts, that is a heart-shaped rose; Pink Nena and Sophie, which is praised for its pale, pink hue. Fuchsia roses also take center stage for Valentine’s Day, notably the Pink Floyd and the Topaz rose variety that are characterized by their bright color.

The Virgin Farms team, together with our strategic allies, work continuously and months in advance to ensure that all our customers have the best roses to celebrate love and friendship on February 14th—Valentine’s Day.

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Combining science and nature to create fascinating roses

The Breeders: Combining science and nature to create fascinating roses

Nature has bestowed us with roses that have incredible shapes and colors. Flowers convey happiness and awe us with their magnificent spectacle.

Roses are not only present in gardens, but also in many other places like in our homes, offices, and restaurants. They are also used to decorate special and unforgettable moments such as weddings. Have you ever thought why there is such an extensive variety of roses that stand out with varying shapes, colors, and appearance? The answer is science. A group of specialized scientists in the field of biotechnology and genetics is in charge of creating new varieties of roses. They are known as breeders.

In a breeder’s lab, a team of specialists is constantly researching and making new developments to create new and improved varieties of roses to keep surprising the world with unique flowers.

We had the chance to visit the De Ruiter company, located in Tabacundo, Ecuador, a region that thanks to its geographical location produces roses that stand out because of their quality and variety.

De Ruiter Flowers

De Ruiter Flowers

Juan Pablo Rengifo, the company’s sales manager, welcomed us to their facility where we had the chance to observe the whole process of breeding.

De Ruiter

Juan Pablo Rengifo -Sales manager- De Ruiter Ecuador

De Ruiter is one of the world’s most important rose breeders. Their headquarters is located in Holland, and they have offices in Africa, Colombia, Ecuador, and Russia. They have been in the floricultural Ecuadorian market for 30 years.

Currently, there are at least 20 breeding companies, most of which are located in Holland, Germany, and other European countries. In Ecuador, breeders became prominent at the same time floriculture began about 50 years ago. These companies are the ones that deliver flowers to all new flower growers, and they are responsible for creating new floral varieties.

 

 How do you obtain a breed?

The process to obtain new rose varieties takes around 3 to 5 years. Depending on the complexity of the variety that a breeder is trying to achieve, sometimes it can take up to 8 years to acquire. That is the reason varieties are so expensive—costing thousands of dollars.

At De Ruiter, the process begins in their labs in Holland, where experienced scientists using genetic-crossing, cross-pollinate two parent plants, meaning one female and one male, and after extensive research, observation, and trials, they achieve new varieties.

roses breed

Quality Check of New Breeds not introduced to the Market yet

Once the trials are over, they check if the color and size of the roses are adequate. Depending on these factors, a decision is made as to whether or not the new variety is going to be reproduced. When the plant is approved it is sent to the Ecuadorian breeders. In the beginning, they receive around 4 to 6 plants of each code and begin a trial phase. Depending on a plant’s productive, physiological and morphological characteristics, they thoroughly analyze the Ecuadorian farmlands. If the results are favorable for cultivation, they produce an average of 500 plants of that variety.

New Rose Breeds for Pink Flowers

De Ruiter in Ecuador has a 1.5-hectare land. Inside this space, 25% of the land is reserved to receive new varieties and test new codes. Another 25% is used for a genetic bank where the plants are cultivated, and the other 25% of the land is used to develop samples to send to Ecuadorian, American, Asian and European buyers. The rest of the plantation cultivates the rose plants that will be delivered to their end clients. “The breeder’s objective is to provide new and improved varieties for the lands, flowers showing great performance and varieties that adapt to different climates. It is a tool to provide each land with exclusive varieties and to achieve a better standing on the market,” commented Rengifo.

One of the most interesting aspects of the visit was observing the field covered with blooming roses. We were able to see the different phases of the roses’ blooming process in their natural habitat.

Roses Breed

Irrigating the new varieties

Endless varieties

 

New Rose varieties

New Rose varieties

Each variety created by this company is registered and turned into intellectual property. For this reason, flower growers acquiring these plants from De Ruiter need to pay royalties to produce the product and to sell the rose varieties the company offers.

In the years De Ruiter has been in the floricultural industry, at least 100 rose varieties have been registered. Each year they evaluate on average between 3,000 and 4,000 varieties of roses, and just 3 to 7 are released to the market per year. In 2019, they released 42 varieties including Pink Expression and Latte Coffee.

Among these varieties, there are many color variations such as latte coffee, yellow, orange, and a blend of brown and lavender. We observed buds with different shapes such as the peony rose and the orchid rose, all of which are still in the observation and research process.

At Virgin Farms, we strive for our clients’ absolute satisfaction. That is why we have strategic partners, such as De Ruiter, to deliver unique, high-quality roses with impressive colors and shapes.

 

What is trending in the floral industry?

There are many trends in the world of flowers. During Valentine’s Day, red and pink roses are the most popular. During Mother’s Day, pastel-colored roses are in demand. This year, the protagonists are roses with vintage brown, purple, pink and orange tones. That is why in order to fulfill the demand, De Ruiter travels around the world looking for the latest trends, analyzing the market preferences to create new varieties to please their clients.

Thanks to the thorough studies and developments performed at breeding labs and the combination of science, biotechnology, and genetics, we are able to have captivating flowers. Growers, in turn, can offer unique varieties to keep delighting us with the fascinating colors and the queen of flowers: the rose.

What is trending in the floral industry?

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Discovering the Quality Control Process of Ecuadorian Roses

We had the opportunity to visit one of our suppliers in Ecuador: FlorĂ­cola Ecoroses, located in the city of Machachi. This beautiful region near majestic volcanoes such as The Illinizas is surrounded by incredible rose plantations.

The region of Machachi is considered to be a blessed region thanks to its geographical position, the intensity of sunlight, and its climate, making it the perfect ecosystem to produce the most impressive flowers on the planet.

Photo of the Ilinizas Volcano from the entrance to the Flower Farm

This farm is family-owned and has 33.3 hectares of greenhouses. It is made up of 350 workers who work to guarantee that all its quality assurance processes are met. We spoke with some of the employees, and they told us about the strict and innovative procedures carried out.

We began with an overview of the floriculture where we could appreciate all the innovations that have been made recently and its competitive advantages. It should be noted that the farm controls its entire value chain, which ranges from flower growing to transportation to its 40+ destinations.

Flower Classification Line. A quality control factory.

Irrigation
The first hydration the flower receives guarantees its life

Watering is the first step to guarantee a long-lasting flower. The water used by the nursery arrives directly from the defrosting of the Ilinisas volcano and goes through an ultrafiltration system before being used in the plantations.

Wilfrido Cazar, Production Manager, told us about the recipes and fertilization formulas they use. Their irrigation system is completely mechanized, so there is no place for mistakes.

They also have a team called Experience, which guarantees a perfect blend and a standardized formula for irrigation. Once the solution has been prepared, it is taken to a pre-mix tank, which combines all the solutions and creates an ideal nutritional formula to fertilize the crop. This equipment guarantees that constant irrigation is carried out in the established periods of time. When there is a lot of sunlight, the equipment detects it and automatically delivers another irrigation.

100% computerized irrigation system and fertilized water control. Each greenhouse receives an exclusive nutrient recipe according to their needs.

Premium location
The equator

It should be noted that the geographical area where EcoRoses is located and due to its altitude, the production cycle of a rose is 30% slower. This produces roses with longer and thicker stems, more intense colors and larger flowers.

Post-harvest:
Processes to extend the life of the flower

From the moment the stem is cut the flower begins to die, but it must do so slowly with outstanding performance and aperture rate. For this reason, the post-harvest process is critical in extending its life.

Ecuadorian farms have made investments in cutting-edge technology to guarantee the quality of roses at the production and post-harvest level. Every flower that enters this process may have fungal spores; insects, almost microscopic (thrips) that feed on the petal. Flowers can also develop a fungus called botrytis, which is a bacterium that rots roses. This is why they have an electrostatic sprinkler system, which minimizes the use of chemical products to clean any fungus or insects. Then they pass through ultraviolet lamps with a fungicidal effect. All these processes extend the life of the roses.

Cold chain
The Farm guarantees its temperature-controlled supply chain

The cold chain is critical for the conservation of the flower. In the cooler, the temperature is always at 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It has devices such as aerocides, which are cleaners that eliminate any fungus or bacteria in the air. There is also equipment that removes ethylene, which is a hormone produced by roses and causes petals and foliage to decay.

Roses should spend 7 hours in a cooler after post-harvest; otherwise, forced cooling is carried out to ensure it reaches the proper temperature.

Roses remain in the cooler for 1 to 4 days. Then they are transported in refrigerated vehicles to the cargo agencies where they will be exported to their destinations.

Though a rose may seem delicate, it is very resistant. Just to give an example, it takes approximately 10 days for roses to arrive to Siberia and they can last about 10 more days in a vase. This is due to the cold chain process.

Roses from Virgin Farms in coolers ready to export. Hormones are eliminated with a complex cooling system and air filtration.

Technology
Key indicators to generate continuous improvement

EcoRoses uses a software called Unosof, which allows them to measure floricultural operations, generate projections and extract key indicators. Through this software, engineers can map everything that is happening throughout the farm.

This software provides also provides information on inventory availability and tracks the frequency of common issues such as fungi and botrytis. The system also detects which bunches have been harvested first, so that workers select these at the time of dispatch to guarantee the freshness of the flower.

By using an advanced system for its quality control processes—ranging from sowing to transport—EcoRoses ensures their integrity and product duration. Their continuous strides to improve their procedures makes them innovative cultivators that guarantees the consumer premium roses full of life and color.

 

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Visit to the Flower Farm in Cayambe, Ecuador

We ventured out to the flower farm in the north region of Cayambe, Ecuador. Cayambe is a zone characterized by its surrounding highlands and mountains, with mild weather ranging from 60°F to 68°F. It is also known for its flower production, especially roses. In this adventure we visited a farm which is located a few minutes from the town of Cayambe.

The journey started in the capital city of Quito, Ecuador which is about 55 km away from the farm and it took an hour and a half by bus to get there.

The vehicle left from a northern bus station in Quito, and traveled along the main road to the north of the city. We passed by many small towns such as CalderĂłn and Guayllabamba, until finally arriving at a bus station in Cayambe. The flower farm was about 10 minutes away by car, so we took a cab.

 

 

We met with our guide, Luis Peralta, who is also in charge of the farm. We started the impressive tour around the farm in one of the nurseries. It was in this enormous greenhouse where the process of rose farming begins.

We asked some general questions about the farm such as its size, and we discovered it was 10.5 hectares or about 25 acres. We also learned that there are 80 varieties of plants grown on the farm. The guide walked us through the complete system for the production of roses. We began in the greenhouse to learn about the plant growth process. During the rest of our tour we learned about cultivation and other procedures such as irrigation, fumigation, and packing operations.

 

Planting

 

 

Plants seeds are sown into the soil. When it develops into a mature plant it can be propagated by taking a cutting from an existing plant and grow it into a whole new rose bush using a method called ‘grafting’. Before the cutting can be planted, it is necessary to remove the flowers, buds, and some of the leaves. Then the management of the plant begins. From just a single stem, a new rose bush sprouts.

Temperature is key to proper development. The environment must be kept humid. A stem is considered healthy or productive when it reaches maximum height.

 

Growth Rate

The growth rate of a plant depends on each variety. Some varieties produce flowers 65 days after they are planted. Other varieties are ready after about 70 to 78 days. In most cases plants produce flowers after 110 days, as in the case of the White Chocolate rose.

 

 

Cultivation

The cultivation process takes place in a different greenhouse. Cultivation is carried out via two methods: in the soil or hydroponics.

In the soil, the plant grows in the ground and receives nutrients directly. Care is provided such as irrigation and fumigation.

 

 

 

The hydroponic method involves sowing plants above ground. This technique is beneficial due to fungal problems that may occur when the roses are sown directly in the soil. The hydroponic method involves providing plants what it needs for its development. Some of the nitrates used are found in rice husk and humus.

 


 

There are essential factors to allow the proper development of roses. One key is that moisture must be maintained. A high relative humidity is needed for the stems to grow to maturity.

Temperature also plays a vital role and must remain between 68° F to 77° F, depending on the rose variety. A rose can withstand temperatures as low as 46 °F. If it is too cold at night, the heaters are activated to regulate the temperature in the greenhouses.

 

 

During the cultivation process, the plant is cut according to the cutting point, or appropriate stem length and bloom stage. Cutting the rose too early or too late can reduce the quality and life of the flower.

The freshly harvested roses move on to the post production facility, where all the varieties are sorted and processed. Roses are collected with help of transporting system built throughout the nursery which consists of a metal carrier that slides across a hanging track. The carriers hold the rose bunches that have been harvested and transported to the post production facility.

 

 

Irrigation System

The irrigation system is managed from a computing center. The center controls the water pulse and frequency, and it is an automated system.

The substrates (or nitrates), phosphorus, and iron is premixed. Each water tank contains 500 liters. This mixture is sent to the main tank, and it is important for it to be accurate.

 

 

Depending on the temperature, plants are watered via irrigation for 5 to 7 minutes. The frequency and intervals of water pulsations is determined depending on the season. For example, in summer, 5-minute pulses are delivered. In one hour, plants are watered 4 times every 20 minutes. In winter, irrigation frequency is decreased.

 

   

 

Reservoir

We learned that the farm has its own reservoir on the property for irrigation, which is maintained and purified regularly.

 

 

Fumigation

While touring the plantations, we noticed fumigation teams. Plants are fumigated once a week. However, in the case of decontaminating for fungi or acarus (mites), fumigation is carried out two to three times per week.

 

 

Packing

The packing facility is a remarkable and there are many employees involved in this stage. The flow of operations is organized to be efficient and quickly move roses along each station from sorting to packaging and eventually to the coolers for exportation.

In the first step roses are sorted by length and grade. Then each stem is packed into a bunch consisting of 25 roses. The packaging is designed to protect the rose heads during exportation.

Bunches are packaged into larger boxes and organized by destination in the cooler. Roses are harvested and cooled in a period of 24 to 48 hours. It takes about 2 days to arrive to the U.S. The entire process from harvest to destination arrival takes 72 hours. Cut roses last 15 to 20 days depending on the care and handling.

 

Exportation

We visited the facility where international exportation is coordinated. Instructions, known as an Airway Bill, is sent to freight agencies which lists the ship-to destination, the product detail, shipment value and quantity being shipped. The logistics manager then uses this documentation to export the roses via cargo agencies.

 

Some Roses Varieties

During our tour around the farm and getting to know all the growing areas, we had a glimpse of some popular rose varieties. Some were in the greenhouses, while others were in the packaging stage. These varieties included the cream-white roses White Chocolate, Polar Star and Mondial.

Lemonade was a delight to see because of its unique lime color, and it is one of our novelty roses.  At the packaging process, we saw the Hot Pink Rose or Hot Lady, which delights with its saturated color; and finally, we saw the classic red roses.

 

White Chocolate Rose

Lemonade Rose

Hot Lady Roses and Red Roses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel Diary: Visiting El Quinche in Ecuador

Santuario de El Quinche

Santuario de El Quinche

January 11th, 2019

Quinche, Ecuador

Our second day in Ecuador continued in the town of El Quinche. It is located northeast of Quito between Puembo (our hosteria or hotel) and Guayllabamba, and east Mariscal Sucre International Airport. This town is notable for a church.

After the Spanish conquest, Catholicism became the predominant religion. El Santuario de El Quinche is known for an annual mass pilgrimage. It begins in CalderĂłn at night and ends in the town of El Quinche on the morning of the 21st of November. This is in honor of La Virgen de El Quinche who made apparitions to save a community of oyacachenses from a plague of ferocious bears in the 16th century. She proposed to help if the inhabitants converted to Catholicism. Inspired and full of hope, the townspeople constructed a shrine in the cave where La Virgen de El Quinche made the apparition. Miraculously the bears were never to be seen again. For over 400 years, the pilgrimage has been a tradition.

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Yellow-Rose-Field

Travel Diary: Virgin Farms Goes to Ecuador

Rose Farm Nursery

Rose Farm Nursery

January 10th, 2019

Today we embark on a journey to Ecuador. It’s close to Valentine’s Day season and we will be visiting our farms. Most cultivate roses and others are growers of calla lilies, asiatic and oriental lilies, and other focal flowers and fillers. Our flight takes off at 3:55 p.m. and we arrive at 7:55 p.m.

Arrival at Quito, Ecuador

As we descended into the city of Quito, from the plane we could see all the lights from the city below us along the mountains illuminated in the darkness. The view was breathtaking. After collecting our luggage we made our way 20 minutes to our quaint “hosteria” called San Jose in Puembo with historical roots. The property even has a corral with farm animals including llamas, sheep, chickens, and peacocks. 

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