GreenCHAINge: Modal Shift in the Transport of Plants and Flowers

Context of Transport Climate Action

Many flowers and plants are flown into Europe from far away. Several plant breeders, growers and wholesalers of the floriculture have joined forces in a project entitled the GreenCHAINge. In this project they commit to improve the CO2 output of the industry by encouraging energy-efficient logistics. This includes transitioning to the use of rail and deep-sea shipping.

In the project, flowers are imported from Kenya to the Netherlands by sea, plants are exported from the Netherlands by trains or barges, and flowers are exported from the Netherlands by trucks, trains or barges. The goal of the initiative is to import 40% and to export 20% of these delicate products by rail and water.


Maritime transport is a viable alternative for floriculture freight which are presently flown in from Kenya to the Netherlands. The waterborne transport of plants and flowers from other regions proves that it can be done. South Africa’s exports of protea (flowers) and the Colombian export of roses has already shifted to international sea transport, reducing the GHG emissions caused by the traditional air freight.

By working together with the Kenya Flower Council and local Kenyan authorities, some pilot shipments of roses have already been organized from Mombasa to Europe. The CO2 savings potential is 87% per shipment of flowers from Kenya. These savings potentials rise even higher for flowers from other regions. Ethiopian transports may save up to 90% of CO2 and Ecuadorian transports can realize up to 95% emission reductions.

  • The Dutch branche organization of Greenhouse production: LTO Glaskracht Nederland
  • The branche organization of plant breeders: Plantum
  • The knowledge institute Wageningen UR

The GreenCHAINge consortium exists of the partners:

  • The Dutch Horticultural Board: Productschap Tuinbouw
  • The Dutch flower trade branche organization: VGB


The pilot projects within GreenCHAINge are the result of intense collaboration between the Kenyan Flower Council, the Dutch Association of Wholesalers in Floricultural Products (VGB), Wageningen UR, trading companies and local growers. The project is also subsidized by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs via the Topsector Horticulture.

These subsidies are required because research is needed to understand the best conditions for shipping the flowers by sea. Controlling the quality, temperature and plant health, during shipping are all crucial. Therefore, pilot shipments of flowers and plants are being used to find which floricultural products are best suited to ship, test the best packaging options and work out how the supply chain logistics must be designed. For example it may take over a month for the consignment to arrive at its destination and during this time the flowers or plants need to be kept in optimum condition for sale, which requires keeping them in low temperatures to slow any growth and they are packed differently to prevent damage or bruising.

The main challenges that must be overcome to create effective and economically viable supply chains of horticulture products, are:

  • Optimization of the various critical areas such as the best varieties of plants and flowers, quality controls, temperature, packaging, etc…
  • Monitoring & controlling of the logistics chain (post-harvest, planning, procedures, …)
  • Risk management (transit times, delays, waste rates, liaising with partners and intermediaries, …)


  • By switching from air freight to sea freight, about 90% of the CO2 emissions can be reduced per shipment depending on the origin and destination
  • The cost of transport is reduced considerably
  • The project showcases that delicate and perishable products can also be shipped

Potential for scaling up

This project can be scaled up to other flower importing and exporting regions. Aside from floricultural applications, the GreenCHAINge project demonstrates to all markets that handle delicate, perishable products that shipping these products is a viable option. The project proves that the perceived drawbacks of maritime transport (such as it being too slow to be able to be used for perishable goods) can be overcome by smart logistics and the adoption of technology.

Selected references



Intercontinental: Kenya, the Netherlands (Sweden, Ethiopia)






Africa, Europe, Adaptation, Freight, Shipping, Aviation, Technology, Partnerships


VGB, LTO Glaskracht, Wageningen UR


Anton Bril, Eelke westra,

“It is often said that cut flowers are very perishable so fast transport is crucial. In GreenCHAINge we have proven this assumption to be false. We are showing that alternative transport modalities are viable. Roses transported over 11.500 kilometres taking 36 days to get to their destination, still had a vase life of 7+ days and their CO2-emissions were already reduced by 78% during this test shipment.”
-Eelke Westra, senior researcher of Wageningen UR