A good food grower knows that a healthy seed will sprout a healthy seedling. And a healthy seedling will grow into the healthiest tree, with utmost care and the most proper nourishment. Growing a healthy tree, which will produce food in abundance, is a slow process but the best food growers in the world know a technique that will speed up the process while also enhancing the quality of the seedling and the ultimate plant. In it, the inverted pyramid cell planter flats are used to grow the world’s healthiest transplants.
And that is exactly what Speedling Incorporated is doing at their eight food-growing nurseries across America. The Speedling cell design allows for the production of consistently high-quality transplants that could be mass-produced for seeded vegetables, ornamentals, and propagated vegetative products.
In an interview to Insights Success, for its latest edition of ‘Top 10 GreenHouse Growers Revolutionizing Horticulture Sector’, the company’s President and CEO, Greg Davis, said, “In the inverted pyramid technology, the shape of the trays reduces production costs for farmers, by improving survivability and speed to harvest.”
He added, “The open bottom design allows for air pruning of the taproot, creating strong secondary roots. The overall structure of the roots permits greater capacity to forage for nutrients and easy extractions, with limited damage during transfer.”
The interview (given along with Jennifer Bozicevich, West Coast Division Manager, and Brandon Palmer, National Sales and Logistics Manager) in detail is produced below.
Please brief our audience about Speedling Inc., its USPs, and how it is positioned as a leading name in the horticulture sector.
Feeding the world and making it a more beautiful place since 1968, Speedling helps local farmers grow the world’s food and flowers. Primarily a young plant producer, Speedling invented the young plant industry and helping growers start Speedling Strong remains our purpose. With locations in FL, GA, TX, and CA, Speedling is a national leader in the largest plant markets in the world.
Speedling measures its success by the success of its customers. We are farmers serving farmers, turning seed and cuttings into strong young plants ready for their next home, be that a south Florida Watermelon field, a Central Valley California Tomato field, a state-of-the-art Geranium greenhouse, or your local independent garden center. We partner with the largest growers in the world and the smallest in your community, no matter your size; we measure our success by yours.
Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on what impact has the adoption of AI and machine learning technologies had on the horticulture sector and what more could be expected in the future?
Growing billions of young plants for over 50 years, Speedling has developed recipes and techniques to produce almost every plant the Good Lord created. Like people, a plant is most vulnerable in its youngest ‘seedling’ state, and our job is to nurture your plants during the riskiest time of its life when the margin of error is smallest.
To do this well, we must utilize every possible tool and all available information. At this stage, anticipation, and foresight are critical, and while a computer can’t replace the passion of a person, it can track massive amounts of data without forgetting the smallest detail.
We track every input and each outcome, and with this data bank, we continually dial in our processes to reduce risk, increase quality, and manage costs. With a living, evolving product, we know, our processes must remain living and evolving, and data helps us anticipate the possibility of different outcomes under different conditions.
By converting data into information, we generate knowledge that helps us continually improve the probability of the desired outcome. Plants aren’t widgets, they can’t be made by a machine, but machines can certainly help our people make better plants.
In our quest for every plant to be an exact copy of the one before and after it, we utilize multiple technologies; however, the only way to navigate real-world variables with new diseases and old challenges is with a professional team of people who absolutely don’t accept failure.
The best plants demand the best people, and the Speedling team is the best in the world. We understand the challenge, we’ve made the investments, and we are committed to continuous research methods and materials to provide better solutions to tomorrow’s needs.
Considering the current pandemic, what initial challenges did you face, and how did you drive Speedling Inc. to sustain operations while ensuring the safety of your employees at the same time?
Even with a mix of fifty-year-old proven processes and cutting-edge technology, it is the people that make Speedling great, so keeping our team safe is paramount. Safety and security work in tandem, it is impossible to avoid all risks and remain secure, so our approach was and is to reduce total risk. That means weighing options and making the best possible choices; after considerable research, we decided that shutting down was worse than COVID-19.
Our teams, at each farm, daily make the decisions and do the work that our customers depend on. So, staying home meant shutting down, which meant dead plants, which would threaten the livelihood of our customers and our families, and that was simply not acceptable.
We didn’t need a declaration; we knew our jobs and our customers were essential, and we would not shut down. We were already hyper-focused on sanitation, and we already ran lean, so, for the most part, we continued to do what we did.
We did reduce in-person meetings, we wore masks inside, and we had a zero-tolerance policy for coming to work sick. Despite all the public fearmongering, I was very proud that our teams didn’t panic; they made the best decision for the team and for our communities.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the horticulture space?
All business is basic, people, process, and product with a good measure of sales, logistics, and purpose. Horticulture is simply great people producing essential products. ‘Mother Nature’ and a living product keep it interesting. Our team is equally artist, scientist, and efficiency fanatics supported by finance and HR, so, no matter your specific strength, almost certainly, you can apply it in horticulture.
How do you envision scaling Speedling’s operations and offerings in 2022 and beyond?
Speedling has been around a long time. We started small; we grew big. For many years, we focused on semi-loads and have long avoided retail. However, the shutdowns have shown us the importance of delivering individual plants to individuals. While we remain wholesale growers, we have been reminded of the joy of new gardeners growing a few plants for fun.
We know better than to try to be everything to everyone, and we know that we can accomplish anything with the right partners who have complementary strengths. Brandon found us two up-and-coming internet marketing companies, one focused on Vegetables and one on Ornamentals. These two organizations have grown far more quickly because of COVID-19, and in only two years, both have become significant new partnerships.
At the same time, we saw the supply/demand imbalance in foliage and, this time, partnered with more established companies who were great at marketing to box stores to quickly become a significant supplier of quality foliage.
We are excited by B2C and foliage and are expanding the production of these lines into Texas and California in 2022. The Speedling team will continue to mix national strategies with local strengths, to meet the needs of our diverse customer base and overcome every challenge.
The Thoughtful Trio
Greg Davis has led Speedling as President and CEO since 2008. Like Speedling, he was born on a Florida farm and has spent his career helping farmers throughout the US.
He started in vegetable seed sales, later in production and brokerage of bonsai and foliage.
His focus at Speedling has been on driving what was historically a cottage industry to be more professional and predictable, implementing multiple improvements utilizing cutting-edge technology. His joy comes from seeing good people become great, as they accomplish more than they realize they were capable of.
Jennifer Bozicevich has spent 25 years in greenhouse and nursery production, leading teams at multiple CA Nurseries to implement the latest technology. Like Speedling, she recognizes the value of building the best production model then using those tools across all product lines.
She has spent many years in all the major sectors of the industry (vegetable transplants, ornamental plugs, vegetative lines, finished floral for fresh market, etc.) Jennifer has been able to develop business in cross-over product lines such as Organic Herb Bowls. Each sector has its own strengths; the beauty of Speedling is its ability to bring all these practices to bear for field growers, for greenhouse growers, and even for big box stores.
Brandon Palmer started at Speedling dispatching deliveries, his can-do attitude and focus on progress, although any obstacle has led to his current position overseeing all sales and customer service. Brandon manages such a wide range of products and customers by staying rooted in the knowledge that the tools and techniques are only as good as the team making it happen.
He has developed plant lovers from outside the industry into excellent sales and customer service teammates by keeping their focus on the customers. He has driven Speedling’s foray into B2B and foliage by proving that excellent quality, service, and logistics make happy customers regardless of the size of the crop.