The arrival of a bag of unrooted cuttings at the sticking line is the start of the production process to turn them into beautiful finished plants. It is also the end of a planning, growing, harvesting and logistics process that started 18 months earlier. Here is a quick recap of what it takes to get that bag of Darwin Perennials cuttings at the sticking line.
Eighteen months earlier is when the sales team tells the cutting production farm what needs to be produced, in what quantities, and for what ship weeks. The reason this is provided so early is because it sets off a chain of events. For example: Tissue culture gets ordered, which then needs to be produced. Those tissue culture plants get rooted and planted in our nucleus area – our area with the tightest sanitation protocols to ensure that this material is cleanly processed. Depending on how strong of a peak the variety has, the harvested cuttings from the nucleus area are rooted to go either into a production house or, if a strong peak is expected, into an increase area. Depending on how quickly a variety grows, this phase can take the better part of the year to finalize.
Once planted, it can take anywhere from 10 to 26 weeks until the first harvestable cuttings have grown on the stock plant. Until that time (and after!) it’s a matter of watering and feeding, scouting, pinching, and making sure the light, temperature and air movement are just right to shape the stock plant.
Every week, a list of customer orders is sent from the office to the farm, and that’s when the clock starts ticking. Orders are grouped into shipments. Harvesters are assigned. Export documents are requested from the local plant health authorities. Cargo space is reserved to get the cuttings from the farm to their respective destinations. Harvesting is done as close to the departure time as possible, while leaving enough time to pack into boxes, and to make sure that the cuttings are cooled down and ready for their trip throughout the cold chain.
After clearing an inspection at point of entry, couriers take the boxes on their way to the final delivery point. Shipping can take place 3-4 days per week, depending on where the cuttings are going and how big the ship week is.
So, while we started with the relatively long time span of planning what to produce and when, the actual supply chain is very much “just-in-time.”
And once the boxes have been taken to the airport, the first thing the farm team does is turn around and … do it all again!