“Every situation is different: that’s the most fun part of this business!”
ICL’s Technical Managers Around The World Eric Brachter
When it comes to keeping plants and turfgrass in peak condition, ICL has the best specialist teams all over the world. Although ICL is a global player, we firmly believe in a local approach. Different countries have their own climate, their own challenges and therefore need different solutions. That is where the expertise of ICL’s Technical Managers over the world comes into play. We asked them about their backgrounds, motivations and specific challenges in their market.
From grandfather to grandson
Many people who work in horticulture ended up there because they were already working in the sector. With Eric Brachter – Technical Manager and Area Sales Manager OH Benelux – the situation is slightly different. “I think it grew out of a hobby my grandfather had. He had a lot of succulents and cacti, so that must have triggered me.” Through education and work experience, Eric eventually joined ICL in 2005. “To me, green and outdoor living is super important, and that includes garden plants.”
Part of Eric’s job is advising growers on-site. As a “plant nutrition specialist for nurseries and garden plants,” he visits his customers several times a week to help and brainstorm with them. “Every situation is different and every grower has his own ideas, wishes and approach. That’s the most fun part of this business!” says Eric.
A competitive market for growers
Growers in the Netherlands don’t always have an easy time, Eric says. After all, in a small country you need to fight for a spot in the market. “The Netherlands is a knowledge economy and therefore is an innovator and forerunner. But, it is also a country that is very full and therefore very densely populated. It is a competition for growers to get space. This entails all kinds of additional requirements related to environment, rules, possibilities and more. That we and the growers have to take into account. It does force you to innovate and take steps forward. Much more than when you look at other countries, where everything is more spread out.'”
In addition to these circumstances, The Netherlands is often a forerunner in product development. Eric sees this reflected within his work, as he tries out new things with customers every day. Osmocote 5 is a great example of this. “We try out products at nurseries for several years until we arrive at a final product that everyone is satisfied with. Right now we are developing products for peat reduced substrates. We then help growers make a move and explain to them the implications of this change on using our products.” Eric helps them with technical support or spars with them when they have questions.
Exchanging information around the globe
Within this piece of advice, international colleagues play an important role. “We exchange a lot of information and learn from each other’s approach. In The UK and the United States, for example, growers have been growing with less peat for years. We then have a lot of contact with each other to discuss smarts or interesting facts. This international cooperation is ICL’s strength as far as I’m concerned.” In turn, other countries look to the Netherlands because of innovations. “That’s how we learn from each other.” explains Eric.
“We in turn seek advice from foreign colleagues when it comes to climate-related topics. Because of climate change, the weather fluctuates a lot now. It sometimes seems like a roller coaster, which stresses a lot of crops.” Besides the climate, many other things are changing too. Fluctuating energy prices and limited product availability are causing growers to innovate. “Thinking and advising growers on these innovations creates a bond,” Eric says. “I can be really proud of growers who achieve good results by using our products. We make a plan in advance with the growers so that their goals can be achieved. Then we advise products and test them in practice. When the products match the customer’s wishes, it feels like a victory.”
Within ICL, Eric gets a lot of room to sell products in a realistic and down-to-earth way. “We build good relationships with our clients and it is great that we can advise them with this approach. I can tell them; ‘this is what you need and this is what fits that best, because…’ and I can provide them with the best possible advice in it.” Eric does not want to offer his customers products that are of no use. “Of course money has to be made, but within ICL we do this in a way where the customer always comes first. When both the customer and I are satisfied at the end, that is the most desirable result in my eyes.”