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Otto Bulk relies on green energy and PLEXIGLAS? .

You don't need to know the street name to find Otto Bulk. When you get to Dunnville in Ontario, Canada, all you have to do is cast your eye over the plain. Bulk's Rosa Flora nursery is where the big wind turbine stands out.

The wind turbine is 75 meters high and is used to supply electricity, at least most of the time. The weather conditions here in the Niagara region between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are favorable. Rising electricity prices prompted Otto Bulk to look for alternatives to classical energy sources: "We wanted to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels." So he soon had the idea of using a wind turbine, which supplies up to 600 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, a large share of the power his nursery needs. 

And Otto Bulk's business needs quite a lot. The gerbera daisy, one of the star cut flowers produced at Rosa Flora, is a sensitive little plant that poses a challenge for all gardeners, not just in Ontario's variable climate with its long, dark winter months and hot summers. Otto Bulk could tell a story about them. Tens of thousands of plants flourish in his greenhouses, and he has learned to handle the vagaries of this northern climate. The big differences in temperature are naturally reflected in the energy balance. Otto Bulk is less worried about high energy prices than other gardeners, not just because he has installed his own wind power plant, but also because his company has been building its greenhouses with PLEXIGLAS? for many years: "The material's high heat insulation saves us a lot of energy. Compared with glass, we save about one million dollars a year."

Otto Bulk relies on a real mixture of different energy sources as well as using PLEXIGLAS? and the wind turbine to combat rising energy prices. Following him and his constant companion, dog Bo, through the exit of Plant 4, you find yourself on the way to the biomass boiler. This is a hive of activity. An excavator scoops up a huge pile of wood chips every few minutes and conveys it to the plant where it is prepared for combustion. "We use this to heat water to 90 degrees Celsius (194?F), which is circulated through the heating system for our greenhouses."

Otto Bulk has been in business for 30 years. He and his wife Corine opened their company in 1978, initially specializing in roses. But they have modified their range over the years: "We just couldn't compete with South American rose growers. The roses from there aren't just cheaper, they are better too," he freely admits. Today, the 150 workers at his nursery produce Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lilies), snapdragons, Sweetheart Roses, stephanotis and gerbera on a cultivation area of 106.000 square meters (1.000.000 square feet). Gerbera has become very popular recently: "You can see vases of gerbera on tables in every home and garden magazine, and of course we are responding to this development." Gerberas are the fifth most popular cut flower worldwide. What Bulk does not grow himself he buys in. In the cold store, he has freesias, Statice, roses and Anthurium that are waiting to be delivered in one of his 13 trucks. "Our motto is quality and proximity to the customer. That means we want to offer the widest possible range of cut flowers." Bulk supplies 20 percent of his range to Canada, and the remainder goes across the border to the USA.

Quality is the highest priority to stay in business in this market. PLEXIGLAS?  helps to do just that because it transmits around 91 percent of light, much more than conventional glass. "That makes our flowers more colorful and helps them grow faster and more vigorously." Otto Bulk previously experimented with other materials. In the early 1990s he installed several square feet of polycarbonate in one of his greenhouses. "We were not at all satisfied with the result – the sheets quickly turned yellow and had to be replaced with DEGLAS." Meanwhile, a total of 80,000 square meters (262,467 square feet) of DEGLAS Alltop have been installed at Rosa Flora. 

Otto Bulk has come a good deal closer to his aim of producing in an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient way, and at the same time of becoming independent of conventional fuels. With his threefold combination of wind energy, wood heating and PLEXIGLAS?, the Canadian who originated from the Netherlands has become a kind of beacon in his branch of industry, not just because you can see his wind turbine from miles away, but also because he sets a recognized example of state-of-the-art production. In 2006, he received a national award for his energy-saving concept.  

Otto Bulk looks with confidence to the future. His wind turbine will have paid off in six to eight years, and he has no need to worry about his greenhouse glazing, which will go on ensuring optimum light yields and heat insulation for decades to come. The next generation at Rosa Flora continues to come up with good ideas. Son Ralph, one of Otto Bulk's six children, already has plans to extend Rosa Flora. 


The story about the queen of pot plants is just one of the articles in the current issue of the Greenhouse Journal: PROFITABLE GROWTH UNDER ACRYLIC. Download PDF 

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