Until recently, experts at the Fleuroselect trial grounds judged entries during the season with a notebook and pencil in hand. The final conclusions were entered manually into an Excel file and sent to an Evaluation Committee for final review, and the allimportant evaluation of the potential winners. Today, the judges can enter their findings directly into a software environment that captures, calculates and stores the data online.
Each year around 25-30 new ornamental varieties compete for the coveted Fleuroselect Gold Medals or are entered for Fleuroselect Novelty Protection. Before an Evaluation Committee, supporting the Fleuroselect Board of Directors, can come to a final conclusion, expert judges spend a full season assessing the entries on a regular basis, evaluating where they meet required criteria and documenting their findings. The administrative part of this comprehensive task has now been streamlined using Mercado software.
In the spirt of Members for Members, Fleuroselect trials take place at its own member locations, both at breeding and distribution companies. Currently 15 locations all over Europe offer both their expertise and space in their greenhouses and trial fields to run the trials. Categories include outdoor field trials and indoor pack and pot plant trials. In keeping with market developments, new trial categories include container production field trials, patio trials for varieties more suited to performance in pots, and trials for the upcoming trend in patio vegetables. Characteristics for evaluation include innovation, flowering season, tolerance and floriferousness and importantly, the judges also assess the variety’s potential use and value for the Grower, Retailer, and Consumer. Each trial location nominates a judge or group of judges who monitor the trials throughout the season. Up until 2021, not much had changed in the scoring method since the first judges walked the trials 50 years ago. Trial book in hand, the judges reviewed the trial throughout the season making notes on how each of the varieties performed, until at the end they sent in their final evaluation to Fleuroselect on paper giving numeric scores and adding comments. Fleuroselect then entered these scores and comments in a standard excel file for final evaluation by its Evaluation Committee panel of experts and by the Fleuroselect Board of Directors who approved the final results.
Change to Mercado
The Fleuroselect organisation first looked to fully digitalise its trials over five years ago. Various software applications were available including E-brida, but these were all dedicated to breeding trials, rather than pure evaluation trials. With the development of Mercado, Fleuroselect found a software package which could be adapted to suit its specific requirements. Information on entries, including their cultivation information and an initial image supplied by the breeder, is added onto the platform where it is available for all the judges to view. Trial holders can then call up this information when sowing and planting the trial. When the time comes to evaluate the performance of the trial, judges enter their findings via an online app. At the end of the trial season the judge can review his findings and make one final upload into the system. This information is then processed, evaluated by a panel of internal expects and finally the results can be published. The information in the system can be shared with the breeder company entering the variety so that they are able to see the performance of the variety over the full set of European trials and use this for internal evaluation. The organisation uses the results to determine the Novelty Status and/or the Gold Medal qualification. One of the major benefits Fleuroselect has seen in the Mercado application is the photography module. Judges can take and upload images throughout the trial season. These are available for own use but are also indispensable for evaluation by the committee and finally for the entrant, who can physically see how the variety performs across all the trial locations. Any breeding company will tell you that archiving photographs during the breeding process requires considerable organisation and Mercado is able to simplify this.
Product & Trial management
Several years ago, Agri Information Partners (also supplier of breeding software E-Brida) indicated a gap in tooling between the R&D/Breeding processes and the effective introduction, positioning and sales of a variety. Mercado was developed to bridge that gap. Clients were looking for a solution to manage all their varieties and information in one central location. Varieties were placed on the product website, used in the catalogue, and trialed in different regions and circumstances. Photographs were taken and shared, and information was scattered around the company in different systems, excels files and folders. Mercado has been developed as tool to provide that sole source of truth that customers are looking for. With Mercado the user oversees their portfolio in one location. In managing product life cycles, traits, or trials a change need take place only once. From automatic website connection to catalogue and from trial set-up to online dashboards, information can be shared with colleagues. All processes are unique which is why in Mercado the system is flexible. Trials can be set up and information collected with an easy-to-use app. Specific product life cycle phases can be defined, and segments managed. Once data have been collected, specific sets can be selected and shared both internally and externally.
Across the water
When Fleuroselect was set up in 1970, there was already a successful trialling organisation in the u.s.a., All America Selections, which had been testing both flowers and vegetables since the 1930s. All America Selections already started trialling with Mercado in 2020 and once again Fleuroselect looked to follow suit. While trials in the u.s. do not judge for internal variety protection and include a full range of vegetables for home gardening as well as flowers, the trialling systems are basically similar. Fleuroselect thanks All America Selections for sharing their expertise in the development of its own dedicated Mercado software.
The history of Fleuroselect spans over half a century. Back in 1970, a group of the top seedsmen of the day founded the Fleuroselect organisation. Their key objective was to test or trial new varieties of ornamental pot and bedding plants bred by members for two main purposes: to grant Novelty Protection, and to award the very best in breeding. Fleuroselect Novelty Protection is a unique form of variety protection based on a Gentleman’s agreement whereby if the variety is proven in the trials to be sufficiently uniform, new, and different from existing varieties, all members of the organisation agree to respect the ownership and refrain from reproduction. They also agree to refrain from selling the variety from any source other than that approved by the breeder. This protection can be purchased for up to 25 years and currently over 300 varieties are on the protection list. Should a variety in the trials be of exceptional value and show a breakthrough in breeding, then the variety can be awarded a Fleuroselect Gold Medal. The Gold Medal is recognised worldwide as a mark of breeding excellence and gives a huge promotional push to a variety as it enters the sales chain. It is supported by a full promotional campaign from the Fleuroselect organisation, and many Gold Medal winners have become standards in the ornamentals industry.
Entry into the trials is open to varieties which are new and not yet offered commercially. They can be either seed-raised or vegetatively propagated. Entrants choose whether they wish to apply for Novelty Protection and/or a Gold Medal. They provide details on the cultivation of the variety and recommend comparisons i.e., control varieties which are currently available in the global marketplace. The entries are evaluated by a panel of internal experts for their suitability and the panel can recommend alternative comparison varieties. A knowledge of the vast assortment of varieties and series in the pot and bedding plants arena is essential in securing a valid trial.
As owners and developers of the software, Agri Information Partners has supported Fleuroselect with excellent backing throughout the process, helping to optimise and secure the future of the trials for the full benefit of the members and for the whole industry. Fleuroselect looks forward to rolling the software out again in 2022 and beyond, supporting members and judges with a software tool that meets modern standards while maintaining that very special individual expertise of the judges, without whom the trials could not succeed.