Online sightseeing of The Netherlands.
Aalsmeer is the largest flower auction in the world. The auction building is the 4th largest building in the world, by floor space covering 990,000 m² (10.6 million sq ft; 243 acres). The Aalsmeer flower auction sells 20 million flowers every day. I went behind the scenes with a supplier of flowers.
Flowers are a fresh product. Handling time needs to be as short as possible. Flowers can travel within 24 hours from the supplier through the auction to you, the consumer.
Supplier: Selects the flowers which are ready to be picked, bundles them with care and places them in special buckets which go on a container for transportation. Everything is designed to be as efficient as possible and to preserve the quality of the flower. A picture of the flowers in the bucket is taken by the supplier and information provided for the auction clock.
Transportation: The flowers are collected at the suppliers by specialized transportation companies or are brought to the auction by the supplier himself. Flowers are grown all over the world, some are flown in from for example: Kenia, Zimbabwe or Israel.
Arrival: Almost all flowers arrive at Aalsmeer before midnight. Delivery information is checked and the transporter swaps the full containers with empty buckets and containers for next day.
Cool stores: Flowers are stored in the cool stores at the right temperature for each product. Sorted by variety. An inspector checks if the quality of the flowers is as the supplier says on the information he provided. If the supplier overrated its product the inspector changes the information labels and marks down the supplier. So the supplier is rated in being trust worthy over the product he is delivering. For each category of flowers the inspector draws a straw to see which container goes on the clock first.
Clock: The auction is set up as a Dutch auction in which the price starts high and works its way down. A clock starts at a high price and ticks down fast. Bidders get only a few seconds to push the button and bid on the flowers. When a buyer pushes the button to soon, he might be paying too much for the flowers. If he pushes the button to late, someone else has been before him and he doesn’t have flowers at all. The question is: How much are you willing to pay for the flowers you want? This type of auction is convenient when it is important to auction goods quickly, since a sale never requires more than one bid.
Distribution: Employees sort out the buckets of flowers from the suppliers container to the buyers container. Some buyers buy the whole container others only buy a couple of buckets. With electric Segway type machines, employees of Flora Holland (the cooperation owning the flower auction) move quickly around to sort out all the buckets. All buckets have a bar code, and by a headset a computer tells to them to pick up which container and to bring which amount of buckets to which buyers container. It’s a bee hive, traffic is just as crazy as all the bicycles in Amsterdam.
Buyers: Many different buyers buy at the flower auction. Some buyers sell the flowers to their customers on the market place or in their flower shop. Others by the flowers for supermarket or chains. A buyer I spoke today does flower export to Switzerland and Monaco. The flowers travel everywhere, shipped out again by train, truck or plain.
Consumer: Most of the time the sold flowers will reach the customers the same day or the next day that they were sold. It depends a bit on their final destination. As 60% of the world flowers are traded in The Netherlands, maybe you next bouquet will have been as well.
When do you visit the Netherlands?
For tours to the flower auction, have a look at www.hollandprivatetour.com