Frans van Dorsser
Shipherd Nurseries is family owned and operated; established by Jaap and Annet van Dorsser in 1987. Their son Frans joined the business in 2006 allowing for further growth.
Frans was born in Espel, Holland in 1978. In 1987 Frans and his family immigrated to New Zealand, to a small-town called Waiau Pa, South of Auckland. After a short time Jaap and Annet purchased a property not far away in the Pukekohe district. This is where the flower growing business began. Thirty years later there is two hectors of modern greenhouses in seven separate growing areas.
During his early years, Frans attended Aka Aka primary school before attending Pukekohe High School. After school he decided to do a degree in applied science focusing on wine making at Massey University. He completed his studies in Fresno, California. Before entering the family business, he applied his trade in France (Burgundy and the South of France) and Cyprus as a ‘flying wine maker. Essentially employed to blend different types of grapes into wine that had been asked for by either wholesale markets or supermarkets. This came about as the new world wines at the time from South Africa, NZ, Australia and the US were fast becoming known for their quality. The wines from the ‘old world’ were not, so there was a need to bring these growers up to the ‘new world’ high standards and quality.
Red roses are a favourite. These are some of the amazing roses grown at Shepherd Nurseries.
Frans decided to return to New Zealand and in discussions with his family decided it was time to enter into the family business. Frans is now the head grower or as he puts it, the guy that oversees everything. Over the years different types of flowers have been grown but the two main flowers are now roses and gerberas. There are 40 different types of roses grown and 15 of gerberas. Keeping up with the market and trends is something the family keeps a very close eye on, visiting Holland is a great way to keep in touch with new and exciting varieties. It is approximately a five-year process from planting roses to when they are replaced so the decision to grow new types of roses is very important.
The flowers are sold via the UFG (United Flower Growers) auctions. In general, this year has been ok. The intense heat we have had this summer did mean that his red roses did bud earlier than anticipated, before valentine’s day, which is the biggest time of the year for Shipherd Nurseries. However, February ended up being a record production month but the plants have now become slightly vegetative. Frans is hoping the cooler nights will continue to initiate more bud growth.
Now the nights are cooling the buds are starting to reform. Day/night temperature differential is important to create the stress needed to get the plant in ‘flowering mode’
Shipherd nurseries uses technology, from the environmental computer to the greenhouse’s structure and the internal fit out, including screens and air circulation fans to mention a few. This summer to keep themselves really busy the old boiler has been replaced in time for the upcoming cooler months. Controlling the environment is just as important for flower growers as it is vegetable growers. Botrytis is a continual issue, close monitoring and adjustments constantly need to be made to reduce the incidence.
Screens are installed to protect from the suns intensity and maintain night time temperature levels in the cooler months.
A double rowed internal hanging gutter system is used with a grow pipe and pressure compensated drippers for irrigation. Stonewool is the preferred growing media.
Shipherd Nurseries employ 12 full time staff and casual workers. Like many growers Frans is describing the shortage of workers available as a major concern. With the minimum wage set to increase Frans is looking for more efficient ways to conduct his business. He feels that when the introduction of $20/hour for the minimum wage comes into effect he will potentially have to let 3 workers go! Frans also believes that compliance is becoming very difficult and there are too many “grey areas”.
Having good, honest reliable staff are one of the keys to success.
Picking the Gerberas directly into the containers ready for packing.
Frans is concerned with the lack of growers in the flower industry, he thinks that losing growers will have a negative impact, because no one is growing flowers it could mean we have to start importing flowers! Potentially these countries will not have to follow strict growing guidelines like NZ growers adhere to. He would like to have more tools to help against the increased pest pressure. Now that chemical usage is being reduced more needs to be done to introduce new insect predator species.
Frans is positive about the future of growing flowers but emphasises the need for more professional growers to enter the industry. He feels there is a good long-term future for growing flowers in New Zealand. Even though there are issues facing his family business, Frans relishes the challenges and especially enjoys dealing with other people. When I asked what he likes the most about his business he answered, “Growing Happiness”, he gets satisfaction out of watching the reaction from people when they receive flowers, this definitely helps motivate him. When he is not overseeing the flower growing operation Frans enjoys his family time with his wife and three sons. He also enjoys brewing is own beer.
Shipherd Nurseries have a simple goal to produce high quality product, using the latest most effective growing techniques with years of experience and valuable Dutch growing skills to draw from.
A beautiful pink gerbera, just one of many different varieties that are grown at Shepherd Nurseries.
The automatic grading machine uses imagery to grade out the roses from their bud size to the length and thickness of the stem and then bunches them together ready for distribution.
A short clip of how efficient the rose grading machine is
Stonewool cubes are imported from Holland in a specific shape and size for growing the Gerberas.
Recently celebrating his 40th birthday, Frans has a long and colourful future ahead in the growing industry
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Article written by Stefan Vogrincic, Consultant, Grower2Grower