East Flemish tree nursery Sylva Nurseries exports forests at full capacity

25 million saplings are leaving Lievegem every year to create forests and develop nature reserves. So far, Sylva Nurseries has exported them to as many as 40 different countries, good for 10,000 hectares of green area, 2.5 times the surface area of the Brussels Sonian Forest. One hectare of mature forest absorbs 12 tonnes of CO₂ per year.

“The best way to protect the forest, is to create it”

Sylva Nurseries exports its product to all the corners of the world, including distant countries such as China, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It also contributes to the creation of more enjoyable walking and breathing space in our own country. Some fine examples include the Vinderhoute forest, the Zwin area and the Ghent Parkbos.

A passionate and viable business, generation upon generation

The young and dynamic management reflects a long tradition of more than 250 years. Ever since the family takeover in 2003 Sylva Nurseries has experienced a tremendous growth in terms of export trade and know-how – thanks to persistent efforts and a solid foundation.

The significant growth in turnover, particularly in the past five years, has also been reflected in the development of an experienced and complementary team (37 FTE in 2021) of thoroughly trained co-workers. Knowledge and experience from other sectors of industry – such as the pharmaceutical industry, construction and IT – bring about a cross-fertilization and provide a fresh perspective on business development.

Sylva Nurseries has an extensive international network of agents with a global customer base. The company is represented in the export work group of VLAM (Flemish Agricultural Marketing Board) and in BELBEX, EFNA (European Forest Nursery Association) and ENA (European Nursery Association).

Ready for the future

The Van Hulle family’s love for the profession combined with the accumulated know-how and a clear vision for the future has resulted in an innovative approach within the industry. The company is investing heavily in workload management and sustainable entrepreneurship. Among other things, they developed a special, ergonomic sorting machine. As far as possible, weed control is done mechanically.

As early as 2009, Sylva Nurseries was awarded the title of ‘Floriculturist of the year’ in Belgium and ‘International Grower of the Year’ worldwide (the Gold Rose). The company won these awards thanks to its innovative approach to environmentally friendly production methods, investments in efficiency and its intensive market approach. Sylva Nurseries also won the “Diversity Pioneer Award” for integrating diversity into their business culture in a creative and consistent manner.

The internationalization of Sylva Nurseries resulted in a production area increase of 115 hectares and an extension of its infrastructure with a new warehouse and added office space. Furthermore, their collaboration with various suppliers in the floriculture industry expanded.

In the next two years the focus will be on innovation and the further expansion of the infrastructure. This will include a variety of applications involving artificial intelligence, drones and robotization. The company will also become more energy efficient through the installation of solar panels on the roof of the new warehouse. This will make the company, including their vehicle fleet and machinery, completely energy neutral. A 10-million-litre reservoir is provided for the collection of rainwater.

Deserved winner of the 2021 Export Lion title

A natural passion and a drive for business on an international level combined with a solid independent financial structure have made Sylva Nurseries an important player within the international floriculture industry.

It is therefore a tremendous honour for the whole team of Sylva Nurseries to represent Flanders next year as Export Lion. The charming East Flemish tree nursery will be an enthusiastic and worthy ambassador for Flanders Investment & Trade.

2022 will be a festive year anyway, as the company will proudly celebrate its 50th anniversary in its current structure. Meanwhile, the eighth generation of Van Hulle is eager to take its place within the company.