Horticultural innovation—Trends shaping the industry in 2024

Added December 19, 2023

By Traci Dooley
National agency sales director for Hortica
®, a brand of the Sentry Insurance Group

As we turn the calendar page to a new year, the horticultural industry finds itself blossoming with both exciting opportunities and potential challenges. While cultivating growth and profitability remains a top priority for businesses of all sizes, making sure your insurance coverage keeps pace with your evolving needs is just as important.

At Hortica, we’re dedicated to providing up-to-date risk mitigation and insurance solutions to help you navigate the ever-changing landscape of the horticultural market. And a new year is a great opportunity to review the emerging trends that may impact your operations.

Tech integration and automation

The industry is evolving rapidly as growers increasingly embrace emerging technology, particularly in the areas of planting, crop management, and harvesting. According to reports from Globe Newswire, there's a growing trend among smart greenhouse and business owners who are leveraging tech efficiencies to boost their crop yields.

If you anticipate your business investing in new technologies or updating your greenhouse management operation, ask your insurance provider for guidance, especially when it comes to protecting your investment.

Explore some technological efficiencies making waves in the horticultural landscape:

  • Smart greenhouses: Businesses are incorporating digital monitoring efficiencies, such as sensor technology, automation, and data analytics, whether in a full-blown smart greenhouse or one enhanced with specific tech capabilities. These innovations play a crucial role in improving growth management processes.

  • Robotics: Nurseries are adopting robotics, including transplanters, conveyor belts, and plant handling robots, to streamline operations and enhance ergonomics, expediting tasks in the process.

  • Generative AI: The momentum of generative artificial intelligence is growing in horticultural operations. This technology, which learns patterns from sets of data, is influencing tasks ranging from plant breeding to crop management.

  • Inventory management systems: Streamlined supply chains are benefiting from inventory management systems that enable real-time tracking from seed to shelf. Businesses are leveraging barcode/RFID technology and connected scales for enhanced visibility into their inventory.

  • Telematics and smart systems: Tech integration extends into delivery efficiencies. Telematics and smart systems designed for fleets and delivery vehicles are empowering owners to optimize routing, fuel use, and maintenance, contributing to overall operational efficiencies.

Positive impact of plants on mental health

There's a noticeable surge in interest surrounding plants and their remarkable impact on emotional well-being, sensory experiences, and overall health. This growing trend not only captures attention but also opens up new avenues for your business to showcase its expertise.

As you explore the possibility of expanding into the mental wellness aspect of horticulture, your insurer can provide valuable safety strategies to navigate potential risks associated with in-store enhancements or business-to-business partnerships.

Consider the following strategies to integrate mental wellness into your horticultural offerings:

  • Enhance your store's ambiance: Infuse wellness-focused design elements into your store. Create a serene atmosphere with nature soundscapes and comfortable seating areas amidst lush plants and flowers.

  • Educate on plant wellness: Host engaging workshops and webinars that delve into the emotional benefits of plants. Bring in experts for insightful talks and hands-on demonstrations, empowering your customers to appreciate plants as enhancers of well-being.

  • Curate plants for mental well-being: Focus on plants known for their mood-boosting properties, such as those with calming scents or vibrant colors. Offer a selection that aligns with mental health benefits.

  • Forge community partnerships: Collaborate with healthcare providers, retirement communities, or rehabilitation centers to develop floral displays or gardens. Incorporate horticultural therapy elements into these collaborations to benefit the wider community.

Climate-resilient horticulture

In 2021, natural and man-made disasters caused $280 billion in economic losses worldwide—ranking as the sixth highest on record. Of those losses, only $100 billion were insured. Scientists predict that natural disasters will become more frequent and severe.

Greenhouse operations are well-acquainted with the challenges presented by natural disasters. The damage they cause can disrupt operations and impact revenue. So, it’s important to carefully evaluate your current deductibles, limits, and business interruption coverage to help you protect your greenhouse operation against financial losses from natural disasters.

Explore the following climate readiness strategies to help your business prepare for and reduce emerging risks:

  • Resilient plant varieties: Developing and using heat, drought, and pest/disease-tolerant plants tailored for your horticultural operations can help ensure consistent production amidst changing environmental conditions.

  • Advanced weather monitoring tech: Precision weather tracking can help with early risk intervention. Predictive analytics tools can also optimize production decisions.

  • Controlled environment horticulture: Growing crops in enclosed structures allows for tighter climate control. Investments in these types of facilities and equipment upgrades can help provide insulation from unstable outdoor conditions.

  • Crop diversification strategies: Broadening your offerings and varieties can help make production more resilient to the changing climates, helping mitigate risks associated with the failure of specific crops.

  • Geographic expansion: Exploring new growing regions with more favorable climates for horticulture can be a strategic move for sustainable business growth as some existing regions potentially become less hospitable.

Supply chain optimization

Keeping your horticultural business healthy means having a strong supply chain. Important trends like improving logistics and storage are crucial for making this foundation even stronger.

Exploring insurance options tailored to bolster supply chain resilience could provide an extra layer of protection for your operations. As you step into the new year, it's worthwhile to consider a few efficiencies. These not only can contribute to a resilient supply chain, but could also act as safeguards against potential risks.

  • Regionalized networks: Source inputs and distributing products locally, helping to boost reliability and minimize transportation miles.

  • Packaging innovations: Use advanced packaging solutions that help extend shelf life and monitor product conditions, allowing for wider, slower distribution without compromising the freshness of your horticultural products.

  • Digital coordination: Embrace digitized logistics with networked technologies to help enhance visibility and coordination across your supply chain.

  • Cold chain investments: Invest in cold storage and refrigerated transport to help safeguard quality. Temperature monitoring becomes your ally in preventing losses and helping ensure the quality of your products.

  • Just-in-time precision: Fine-tune your supply procurement, production, and distribution with just-in-time practices which can help lower your inventory holding costs and reduce waste by avoiding spoilage.

  • Omnichannel flexibility: Diversify your sales channels with online ordering, on-site pickup, and partnerships with grocers or distributors. Providing multiple ordering options can help you increase accessibility and accommodate diverse customer preferences.

Preparing for the future

As we approach the upcoming year, it's evident that several noteworthy trends have the potential to reshape the landscape of your business. Proactively embracing advanced technologies, fostering mental wellness initiatives, and strengthening operational resilience against climate challenges are crucial measures to not only stay relevant but to lead the way in an ever-evolving business environment.

It's not just about following trends—it's also about ensuring your business is resilient and ready for long-term success. Let's navigate these opportunities together for a secure future.

Hortica is a trusted insurance provider with more than 135 years of horticultural industry knowledge. Our customized solutions and proactive safety services can help you manage emerging trends and mitigate risks. If you have any questions about insuring your horticultural business or would like to review your current policy, contact us today or request a quote.

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2024 Industry Trends

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