Thoughts on Industry Consolidation

Having spent over 17 years in the Horticulture Industry, I’ve seen a large number of breeders, growers, and suppliers purchased by larger companies.  Both the amount of consolidation and the rate of consolidation in the Horticulture industry have been on the rise in the last 3 to 5 years.

Every consolidation potentially brings a reshuffling of alliances, changes in staff, and it can get a bit difficult to keep up with who is working where and what they can and can’t sell.

With this most recent purchase, there is a completion of a circle.  The plant brokerage company SHS has been sold by the huge international conglomerate mothership Syngenta.  Remarkably, SHS is now owned by a family-owned brokerage company, Griffin.

There was a time, in the not all that distant horticultural industry past that some of us remember when virtually every sales rep, and many other greenhouse industry people, had a history of working at the broker Vaughan’s.  Vaughan’s, of course, was purchased by Syngenta to create what evolved into SHS, with Vaughan’s nursery brokerage arm morphing into McHutchison.  Syngenta went through a number of name changes and acquisitions and spinoffs (the frequency of name changes remains industry joke) and has evolved into a major player in ornamental plant breeding in North America and Europe, as well as a gigantically huge player in the agronomic crop and crop chemical industries.  Ornamenal horticulture is a tiny drop in their big bucket.

Industry rumor and scuttlebutt had pegged SHS to be sold for quite some time, and many were expecting an announcement as last July’s Ohio Short Course.  Rumors were particularly rampant among European colleagues at the show.  Frankly, in my (not so) humble opinion, SHS didn’t do a great job for many of the growers it served when under Syngenta, primarily due to internal communication issues between the breeding,  production, and sales companies of Syngenta.  ‘Nuff said.

Time will tell how smoothly the transition to Griffin’s ownership goes.  I’m actually quite optimistic, and hope that SHS’s many excellent reps gain a more efficient office system from the change.  Industry history has shown that computer integration issues are often the bane of getting two companies integrated smoothly.

I wish everyone at both Griffin and SHS the best of luck at creating a full-service brokerage for both greenhouse and plant material.  (Don’t forget to think about the small growers, either!)  And good luck to anyone at SHS changing ship at this transition, as well.

Hopefully, 2013 will be quiet on the consolidation front.