Interview with Thom Schonk, Nieuwkoop Europe B.V.
Thom Schonk has been with Nieuwkoop Europe B.V. for over 14 years. Starting as a Commercial Manager in 2008, he has been a Procurement Manager since January 2018 and is responsible for purchasing materials and products for resale. His main task is planning, coordinating, and dealing with buyers and purchasing departments in various organizations.
1. Give us a little introduction to your company. How big is the company, what is your focus? What range of plants do you offer?
Nieuwkoop Europe is a nursery and wholesaler of hydroponics and potted plants that offers a comprehensive range of plants and accessories for indoor greening. In addition to many different types of indoor plants, this also includes pots, planters and green walls, as well as the products needed to implement and maintain indoor greening. In short, everything you need to transform any indoor space into a fresh, green environment! Nieuwkoop Europe can deliver worldwide, but only sells to interior designers and resellers of green plants, such as florists and web shop operators. A comprehensive service is of utmost importance to us. We strive for a close relationship with our customers and are happy to support them with our advice regarding the implementation of planting projects. We use our extensive knowledge and experience to advise on plant selection, on complex logistical issues or in compiling a complete product.
2. How long have you been involved in the field of hydroponics?
We have been active in hydroponics and the distribution of plants and accessories for over 50 years, since the early 1970s.Over the decades, we have been instrumental in developing, influencing, and promoting the large market of indoor greening with hydroponics plants and hydroponics components.
3. In your opinion, how large is the plant spectrum in hydroponics?
Basically, you can grow all indoor plants in hydroponics. Even orchids or cacti, which usually prefer dry soil or substrates, are suitable. When choosing a plant, make sure that it is suitable for the intended location, i.e. that the light conditions are sufficient, and that it is well cared for.
Today we offer a large selection of plants that have proven themselves
4. Why do you use Leca® ton? And when did you first encounter it?
The basis of hydroponics is the substrate, in this case expanded clay. As hydroponics is a closed system, it is important that there are no harmful interactions between the root, the fertiliser and the substrate in the cultivation vessel that could harm the plant. Based on first positive experiences and investigations with various expanded clay origins, Leca® ton emerged as an excellent substrate at German research institutions in the 1970s.Even then, the excellent raw clay properties made Leca® ton an expanded clay granulate of outstanding quality. Salt content, pH value, water absorption, air void content, weight, grain shape and color have made it indispensable in our applications ever since.
5. What role does the quality of the expanded clay play? Which technical requirements must the product fulfil? (e.g. grain size, water absorption, chemical composition)
As already mentioned, the quality of the expanded clay plays a special role. For this purpose, very clear specifications were drawn up 50 years ago, which an expanded clay had to fulfil - it must not exceed or fall below certain values for salt content, bulk density, water level, pH value, sodium, chlorine, or fluorine. Today, there is an RAL certification procedure in Germany by the independent Gütegemeinschaft Substrate (Quality Association for Substrates), which expanded clays can undergo. In this procedure, the expanded clay is externally monitored and must, amongst other things, fulfil the above-mentioned criteria. Currently, Leca® ton is the only RAL-certified expanded clay in Europe. This is the reason for us to continue working with Leca® ton.
6. In your opinion, what are the advantages of hydroponics with expanded clay?
The big advantage is the optimal supply of the plant with water, air, and fertiliser. The water level indicator allows me to see at any time whether the plant is too dry or too wet. By using a slow-release fertiliser, I can fertilise the plant optimally for periods of 3-4 months. By checking the water level in the planter with the water level indicator, I ensure an optimal supply of air to the plant at all times, as the oxygen can circulate well in the porous expanded clay and its interstices above the water level and supply the roots with oxygen.
7. What are the current trends in hydroponics from your point of view?
The current trend is towards "green walls" which can also be implemented by means of expanded clay. There are complete hydroponic greening systems with Leca® ton; here, the nutrient solution circulates through the planters of the green wall with the help of a pump and gravity. This can significantly increase the humidity in rooms and enhance people's well-being.
8. How do you see the future of hydroponics?
We are very positive about the future of hydroponics. In our eyes, it continues to be irreplaceable in professional indoor greening and represents the absolute standard due to its easy maintenance.