In a scenic corner of Portugal, nestled in the northern Algarve region near the somewhat bucolic seaside town of Aljezur, Koppe Young Plants Portugal Lda has found its ideal home. This is a subsidiary of Koppe Begonia the family-owned and operated begonia breeding business founded by Marinus Koppe in the Netherlands in 1910.
To explicitly talk about the establishment, Bert Koppe, who now runs the institution had a lot to share on their unique choice of location and the factors that make their operation special, as well as why Koppe Young Plants Portugal Lda is quite the driving force that it is in begonia propagation.
Koppe Young Plants in Portugal
In a true sense of a business passed down from one generation to the next, Bert took responsibility for the company at a relatively young age and accordingly spearheaded its begonia propagation.
In 2013, the company decided to establish a propagation site in Portugal, taking control of the entire process such that now, most unrooted cuttings come from Portugal and are continuously matched with new parent material from the Netherlands.
So, why Portugal? if one may ask. Why not Africa, for instance?
Koppe's idea to establish their propagation facilities in Portugal can, according to Bert, be attributed to several factors. For starters, the proximity to Holland makes it feasible for frequent visits, thus facilitating hands-on management. Furthermore, Portugal offers the right blend of temperature, light intensity, and favorable labor costs compared to the Netherlands.
Bert explains that the shorter distance between Portugal and Holland eases the oversight of operations firsthand. And while Africa may have had even lower labor costs, safety, and stability is still an issue in many of the continent’s countries. Plus, the insect pressure for white flies and thrips is also a lot lower in Portugal.
Bert explains further:
“In Portugal, Koppe Young Plants Portugal Lda also benefits from a perfect climate as it is located just three kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean. The area enjoys mild summers and winters, making it an ideal environment for plant propagation.”
The establishment is a distinct entity, thoughtfully managed by a local team. The lineup consists of Salvatore Taglialatela, the manager of Portugal and a grower, Sandra Kus the team leader, and Dilia Silva the office manager. Other than its other staff members, the trio receives support from Koen Eidhof, the operational director, who visits the Portugal site every six weeks, while Bert and Ermelo grower, Joost Verburg also make regular visits to ensure smooth operations.
In total, Koppe employs a diverse team, with over 40 members during the season, including 12 permanent employees who have been with the company since its inception in Portugal. The seasonal workforce includes individuals from Nepal who assist in raspberry farming during the summer.
The Allure of the Algarve Region
Situated just three kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, the Aljezur area boasts a pleasant climate. And Koppe Young Plants Portugal Lda stands out as a unique presence in this area. However, it is not just the propagation facility that makes this region special. It has a lot more attractions to offer. It is a haven for surfers and nature enthusiasts alike, and the region's temperate climate is perfect for those who prefer milder weather throughout the year.
The breathtaking landscapes, serene ambiance, and soothing sound of the ocean also draw tourists from around the world. The narrow streets lined with white houses, quaint towns, the traditional Portuguese cuisine, and the prospects of savoring famous delicacies like 'pastel de nata' and Port wine often make the Algarve an attractive destination to visit.
A Strong Sustainable State-Of-The-Art Infrastructural Presence
In Portugal, Koppe's propagation facilities are an embodiment of modernity. Their widespan greenhouse, equipped with automated table transport built by Bosman Van Zaal, is a demonstration of excellence.
The greenhouse is heated using LNG gas, with sodium lights ensuring optimal daylight treatment. It also features an indoor screen, insect netting, a rollable outdoor screen, and UV sterilization. In essence, it's a piece of Holland and its technology, meticulously recreated in the heart of Portugal.
The outdoor screens play a crucial role in safeguarding the plants from excessive solar radiation and regulating the temperature.
In addition, the establishment’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its water-sourcing practices. The water supply primarily depends on rainfall and a local canal created by nearby farmers. This eco-conscious approach ensures a minimal environmental footprint.
What’s more, its dedication to quality extends beyond plant propagation. There are protocols in place for occupational hygiene and employee motivation. These are integral to everyday operations, ensuring a positive work environment that, in turn, yields better-quality products.
Overcoming Adversity - How Did Koppe Cope With Recent Bushfires?
Hot and dry weather, as well as challenges associated with climate change, have often posed a problem as they heighten the risks of wildfires in the region. In August 2023, for instance, Koppe faced a significant challenge when a bushfire swept through the Aljezur region.
However, despite the devastation, Koppe's team came together to minimize the impact. Its operational director flew to Portugal to support the local team and initiate the insurance process. The company's commercial director and planner worked tirelessly to mitigate production disruptions by purchasing additional cuttings from other suppliers and shifting to alternative varieties.
A remarkable collaboration between the team members in Portugal and their counterparts in Ermelo and Aalsmeer enabled them to replace over 90% of the lost plants within four weeks. The suppliers' prompt response, delivering pots and potting mix within a week, was also pivotal in promptly resuming operations.
Being in a region that is prone to bushfires, Koppe now looks at ways to protect the establishment from nearby fires. At the moment, its strategy is to keep the land near the company’s premises bare to reduce the risk of fire damage. In this case, the sand keeps the fire away from the structures at the propagation site.
The Future of Koppe Young Plants in Portugal
Steadfast in its commitment to quality best sums up Koppe Young Plants Portugal Lda’s future prospects. This, it strives to achieve through using only the best cuttings from elite mother stock for the propagation processes. Koppe is fast building up new mother plants to meet the peak season demands.
What’s important to the breeder is that Portugal's unique combination of favorable environment, breathtaking scenery, and dedicated talent highlights the undeniable success of this begonia propagation venture that combines Dutch expertise with the natural beauty and favorable conditions of the region.
For Koppe Begonia, its Koppe Young Plants Portugal Lda seeks to maintain begonia propagation and breeding excellence which remains the crux of its business.
All photos courtesy of Koppe Begonia.