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The post-digital environment will see the horticultural sector ever more dominated by developing technologies and artificial intelligence – and sustainability remains of the utmost importance. 

The horticultural industry contributes more than £24 billion a year to the UK’s GDP and employs more than 550,000 people.  Garden centres are booming, but how environmentally sustainable is the sector as a whole? Larger retailers have diversified their business with cafés, adventure playgrounds, gift shops, workshops, Christmas grottos and by hosting events to attract visitors all year round.  Smaller retailers concentrate on their core business and attempt to increase profitability by extending opening hours and delivery services.

Some nurseries are adapting fast and using AI to improve performance. They are, for instance, reducing labour costs and increasing production by using automated sowing, transplanting and robotic spacing machines, automated watering, bench transport systems and biomass heating. Most thrive by keeping on their toes and on top of overheads, but many still lag behind in technology and prefer to outsource printing requirements to specialist companies.


Sustainable business OKI plant loops - garden centre printing must be sustainable

Inhouse printing – with the capacity to produce anything from waterproof shelf signage to banners, flyers, QR codes and labels – can dramatically decrease costs and substantially increase control of results – and resources. Garden centres have the option to choose and use sustainable materials.

Going green throughout the business can also be a very attractive USP.  Forward-thinking nurseries and garden centres that want to print in-house need a versatile printing set-up that can perform whatever the task and print on any surface and in any ink.

The OKI range of ultra-compact A3 colour printers produces professional results in-house on demand for every type of business. The C800 Series can handle an unrivalled range of media in HD colour, from pre-cut media to eye-catching posters and expansive banners.  This range can also print on waterproof and UV resistant media while maintaining a professional finish and exceptional colour vibrancy. Each printer in the C800 Series is equipped with a clear, easy-to-use screen and is Blue Angel certified* for energy and time-saving with efficient fusing technology.


Beware the buycotters

Garden centres need to nurture their profile to keep business blooming. Bio labels and mineral oil-free inks are now in increasing demand, much of it led by activists and consumers. Industry should ensure that its practices and products address their global carbon footprint. Environmentally-aware consumers now buycott – study the green credentials of goods (and also of the manufacturers) – before deciding which product to buy.

OKI provides fast, reliable printing solutions for a range of applications to help retailers engage with customers in-store. Staff can quickly source specific materials or help customers with advice on sustainable gardening. They can also display their sustainable USP.


Robust, weather-resistant materials

From hanging banners and shelf talkers to waterproof plant pot labels and self-adhesive stickers, OKI’s Retail Solutions can provide the capacity to produce colourful visual communications and targeted advertising in-house.

Pot labels, plant picture labels, loop lock labels, pot pointers and bed cards have to survive all kinds of weather. OKI LED printers can print on UV-resistant waterproof materials in different formats. Specialist materials are available to minimise environmental impact. Some are derived from natural products like sugar cane, hemp and linen and others from fully recyclable materials such as polypropylene. Alternatively, recycled materials, such as polyethylene terephthalate, can make great labels.

Mineral oil-free inks are gradually replacing petroleum-based inks. Developed by the food industry to avoid contamination of food products and to conform with EU standards, ‘veggie inks’ also lessen the reliance on fossil fuels. The drive for sustainability continues.

*The Blue Angel, the ecolabel of Germany since 1978, sets high standards for environmentally-friendly product design and has proven itself a reliable guide for more sustainable consumption.