Foundation to Build On – Mike Neary

Foundations

Mike Neary, Manager of Horticulture with Bord Bia, details the host of programmes, initiatives and activities you can use to build a stronger business in 2014.

The horticulture sector remains in a challenging position. A confluence of economic,
meteorological and consumer factors have combined to place enormous pressure upon horticultural business owners.

This has manifested as significant shifts in all areas. We are still doing the same things, but we’re now doing them in different ways. Feedback from colleagues across the sector would suggest that everybody is working far harder too.

Things are no different in Bord Bia. We are similarly challenged to work smarter and maximise the return on the resources available to us for the benefit of the horticulture industry. This includes making our budgets stretch beyond what was considered conceivable a couple of years ago.

Horticulture is a significant sector and is good for Ireland. While there is no quick fix solution to current challenges we are often reminded that times like these can be an opportunity to review business practises, improve ›deficiencies
and to seek out new opportunities. These opportunities might be online, outside of the country, working collaboratively or in related sectors. In Bord Bia we are determined to maximise the supports and measures that help you to grow your business as the economy turns.

On the consumer front, Bord Bia is wholly behind Bloom, Ireland’s largest gardening event, which takes place in the Phoenix Park Dublin over five days on the June Bank Holiday weekend. This major national event which attracted 110,000 visitors in 2013 provides a high profile promotional platform for Irish horticultural businesses to exhibit, promote and market their products and services (e.g. plants, garden design, garden construction,etc). €5.5 million was spent by visitors at Bloom 2013 and an additional postevent €90 million spend was inspired by the media coverage generated. Bloom 2014 will take place from the 29th May to the 2nd June. On Friday 30th May
there will be a Bloom TV special on RTE 1 supported by Bord Bia. We’re also the driving force behind the Super
Garden TV series. This is a major 6 part TV gardening series, which is due back on our screens in April 2014. Up and coming designers who would like to participate in the show should contact Vision Independent Productions Ltd www.visionindependentproductions.com.

Garden Time, Bord Bia’s promotional activity for the amenity sector is carried out under the “Garden Time” banner and is focused on the spring and early summer period. The various promotional activities direct consumers
to the Bord Bia Garden Time website, which provides a range of information and detail on gardening including gardening events that will be happening around the country. Industry members can have the details of any events they are organising listed in the events diary. A suite of promotional resources for the industry to use is available to download from the Bord Bia website www.bordbia.ie.

We continue to explore potential consumer-focused initiavites with both industry representatives and through
consumer research, and look forward to developing new opportunities over the coming months. On the trade front, Bord Bia continues to support GLAS. The Garden, Landscape & Amenity Showcase is the national trade show for the amenity horticultural sector, which is organised by Kildare Growers and supported by Bord Bia. It brings plant producers and buyers together at one event. The trade show takes place on the 24th July in the Citywest exhibition centre. We also play a key role in the National Plant Fairs. These fairs are held each spring to provide nurseries with an opportunity to meet key buyers at the start of the new gardening season, and to exhibit and market plants. Two fairs are planned for Punchestown Racecourse in Kildare on 25th February and 1st April. These fairs are organised by Garden Events Ltd for the Irish Hardy Nursery Stock Association, supported by Bord Bia.

When it comes to business development, we remain committed to supporting a whole range of activities and initiatives, including the Supplier Development Programme.

This programme provides training and mentoring to amenity sector producers on best business practises, new product development, and innovation and developing skills to maximize outcomes in existing and new market channels.

Nineteen businesses are currently participating in the programme. In addition Bord Bia is currently supporting initiatives within the industry to look at new plant and cut foliage varieties.

The Market Assistance Programme provides grant support to qualifying companies to develop and improve
their marketing capabilities. Application forms are currently available and the closing date is the end of February. The areas for which support is available are:

  • trade fairs and exhibitions
  • market research and product marketing development
  • quality measures, development of marketing knowledge

In 2013, thirty eight horticulture businesses were being assisted through this programme. Another key aspect of our activities is sponsorship of various events, conferences and seminars throughout the year. These include the David Robinson Memorial Lecture for students of horticulture, Young Horticulturalist of the Year, the Rare & Special Plant Fair, ALCI awards, the GLDA’s annual seminar, and the Irish Hardy Nursery Stock Association
Conference, The Garden Centre Association (including the International Garden Centre Association Congress that will be held in Ireland in 2014) and many more.

Bord Bia also undertakes to provide up to date market information to the amenity horticulture sector, which
assists them in their planning and marketing activities. This includes information on general market trends
to specific information on the garden market. We also provide assistance for those wishing to develop export opportunities through the facilitation of key contacts with buyers and via mentoring support.

Our range of Amenity Quality Programmes continues to grow in strength and impact, and provides a cornerstone for building standards across the sector. Developed as business improvement schemes, businesses have benefi ted either by improving compliance with statutory requirements, and/or recognising where business processes can
be changed to improve future performance. The Landscape Quality Programme is a voluntary quality assurance scheme designed to assist Irish landscape contracting businesses reach best practise in business standards and management.

It sets out a code of practice for the efficient running of a landscape contracting business and provides a
standard against which each business is evaluated. The programme is tailored to the sizes and capabilities of Irish landscape businesses and is flexible enough to meet the needs of the smallest and largest participants. Concentrating on the important areas, it identifies best practice, and helps managers to install it in the most cost effective and time efficient way.

The Garden Centre Quality Awards have been instrumental in raising standards within garden centres throughout Ireland. Over the years, the aim of the awards has been to set achievable standards for the industry while simultaneously rewarding those centres that consistently strive for excellence.

Foundations1
ABOVE: DOING BUSINESS: PAUL DOWLING, MARTIN SCOTT AND BARRY EVANS AT A TROLLEY FAIR LAST YEAR

Foundations2

ABOVE: DANNY & THOMAS MCGONIGLE AND TOMMY CULLEN AT LAST YEAR’S GLAS SHOW. THE EVENT HAS GATHERED HUGE MOMENTUM AND QUICKLY BECOME THE KEY INDUSTRY EVENT OF THE TRADE CALENDAR

Foundations3

ABOVE: HORTICULTURAL EVENTS IN IRELAND ARE AS MUCH ABOUT THE SOCIAL ELEMENT AS THEY ARE ABOUT BUSINESS. THEY OFFER A GREAT CHANCE TO CATCH UP AND MEET FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES. ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FIGURES IN THE IRISH HORTICULTURAL COMMUNITY, AND RARELY CAUGHT ON CAMERA, IS KORALEY NORTHEN. CAPTURED AT BLOOM 2013

Foundations4

ABOVE: KIERAN DUNNE OF L & K DUNNE NURSERIES AT BLOOM 2013. KIERAN, WITH A NUMBER OF
OTHER GROWERS, DEMONSTRATED HOW THE EVENT CAN BE UTILISED BY THE INDUSTRY TO DIRECTLY
COMMUNICATE THE DIVERSITY AND QUALITY OF IRISH GROWN PLANTS

Each participating garden centre undergoes a comprehensive audit conducted by an experienced independent consultant. The centre is assessed on a number of criteria including plant quality, customer service, merchandising, outdoor/indoor presentation, information, accessories and marketing amongst others, and the report highlights areas of excellence and those which can be improved. The report is also a valuable tool if utilised for business improvement and stay motivation. The facility achieves a star rating based on the audit score, which can be used to promote the business.

The Nursery Quality Scheme provides a quality assurance scheme for nursery producers which is being implemented to the internationally recognised standard EN45011. This programme assists the producers to establish, maintain and develop high quality standards. Nurseries who achieve certification may use the Bord Bia Certified Member logo to promote their business, as well as the Bord Bia Quality Mark on Irish grown product.

The long awaited green shoots are finally starting to show but the long climb to economic recovery has only commenced. In Bord Bia we are committed to promoting and supporting the sector at all levels. If you think you could benefit from our input, then get in contact today.

FURTHER DETAILS on BordBia’s programmes and supports are outlined on our website www.bordbia.ie or you may call or email us to discuss your needs on 01 6685155 or info@bordbia.ie