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Plant propagator Benne fills niche in North American market

Tomatoes and geraniums top crops

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Plant propagation may not be as glamorous as mineral exploration. In spite of that fact, financial results from one B.C. grower regularly receive attention in the business section of provincial daily newspapers. Publicly traded as BVO, Bevo recently reported a revenue increase over the previous year from $13.6 to $20 million, and a five-fold increase in profits to $1.9 million. The company projects sales to top $30 million in 2004. Bevo grows and distributes a range of plant seedlings. It plans to increase the size of its facility by 50 percent in the coming year.

The plant propagator has gone from growing 50,000 to three million geraniums a year. It is the firmís second largest crop of which seventy percent is shipped to the U.S.A. So far, Bevo works without a sales force, relying on word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied customers. The company is headed by Dutch immigrant Jack Benne who 22 years ago was hired away from Vierpolders, the Netherlands to set up a vegetable greenhouse operation next door to his current location.

Bevoís customers, primarily wholesale greenhouse growers and nursery operators, are located all over North America.

Expansion foreseen

From its 9-hectare site, Bevo especially ships such plants as tomatoes (the largest crop), peppers and cucumbers to greenhouses, and lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli plants to local field growers.

Propagators grow plants on demand in a tightly controlled and disease-free environment.

Bevo recently raised $5 million in a non-brokered private debenture placement to be used for its building plans and as working capital.

Company founder Benne who was raised in a farm labourerís family southwest of Rotterdam, set up his greenhouse business with 10,000 guilders after his discharge from army service forty years ago. His initial 750 square metres complex was expanded and modernized several times before the operation was sold.

Founded in 1986, Bevo owns 98 acres at its Langley location of which 22,5 acres has been covered by greenhouse propagation facilities. Benneís son Leo serves as General Manager of the company.