The monthly manufacturing of 70 000 long-lasting roses, initially developed by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Institute for Chemical Technology, InnoVenton, is contributing to job creation and skills development nationally.
African Floralush, based in Muldersdrift, Gauteng, now employs 90 workers, most of whom were previously unskilled, in what is now a monthly R8.6m business for their sought-after lluba roses. In addition, local sales through distributors who employ one or two people, means a further 25 additional jobs.
InnoVenton’s director, Prof Ben Zeelie, and Addo rose grower, Tinie Maske, along with Dr Shawn Gouws also of InnoVenton, were the inventors of the original long-lasting rose which is now being distributed throughout 30 countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
“The business has taken a long time to get off the ground (which is not unusual for a new technology), but it is gratifying to see one of our technologies really making a difference to people’s lives by providing employment,” says Jaci Barnett, Director of the NMMU’s Technology Transfer Office at NMMU.
The university is both a shareholder in the patent-holding company and in the manufacturing company, African Floralush, which licenses the technology. The Industrial Development Corporation is the major shareholder in both companies and provided the bulk of the investment to start the business.
African Floralush is currently run by JJ Viljoen, a South African entrepreneur, who works closely with NMMU.
Sales of the roses are mostly to wholesalers for onward distribution in retail stores and directly to the hospitality industry. The long-lasting roses are “positioned” between fresh-cut and artificial flowers.
“The roses are popular for home decoration and also with hotels, ocean liners and long-distance luxury train operators because they do not have to constantly replenish freshly-cut arrangements,” says Jaci, who has been responsible for overseeing the various patents on the technology.
According to Dr Gouws, water in the cells and tissues of the flowers and foliage are replaced with natural eco-friendly preservatives. This allows the flowers and foliage to last for six months without water.
Next year African Floralush plans to open a second plant in the Western or Eastern Cape using the same process to preserve indigenous proteas and hydrangeas.
Iluba roses are sold in Port Elizabeth by Gypsy Rose in Moffett on Main Lifestyle Centre as well as The Greenoverall in Sunridge Village Shopping Centre.