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Students help take Lucassen’s Astilbe ‘Look at Me’ to a new level

The Lucassen perennial plant nursery is a partner of the Venlo campus of HAS University of Applied Sciences. The company has been in the family for 3 generations and was converted by the brothers Pieter and Marcel from a mixed farm into a 40-hectare nursery. The brothers now cultivate 350 sorts of plants on coarse Maasduinen sand. The company specialises in rootstocks and grow a total of 6 million plants that are sold all over the world by 150 business partners. They also produce grass mats that can be rolled out on roofs. And the largest grass mat in the Netherlands, which can be seen on the roof of Schiphol airport is one of Lucassen’s too.

In 2013, Lucassen entered their Astilbe ‘Look at Me’ creation in the category ‘Best Innovation’ at the leading international tree nursery trade fair, Plantarium. In spite of the fact that there were no fewer than 110 entries, ‘Look at Me’ won the gold medal. “We have been refining this plant for 20 years,” says Pieter Lucassen. “We were really surprised to win gold. There was a lot of interest in the plant, so we decided to produce several colour variants for the market.”

Colour variants with a new name

“We decided to approach HAS for their help,” Pieter continues, “As a result, students from the degree programme, Business Management & Agribusiness carried out research as part of their final year project, to see how we could best market the plant. They also thought about the name and how we might expand the product line. The fresh perspective that the students brought persuaded us to change the name slightly. ‘At Me’ became the basis, and the colour variants were then given names like ‘Look at Me’ and ‘Smile at Me’.”

Students are creative

This academic year (2017-2018), students from Applied Biology will be working on the next phase of plant breeding, using the results from the market research as their starting point. Pieter enjoys taking on such projects with students: “Students are very creative and come up with innovating ideas. It also surprises me how easily they get information from literature or from the internet. The project with the Astilbe is an ongoing project where they learn at the same time as working. This is the case for both us and the students. And it’s something that we can be proud of.”

The roll of the partner company

As a HAS partner company, Lucassen provides students with the opportunity to get to know their future field of work extensively. This is done by means of company excursions, guest lectures, internships, real-life cases, final-year assignments and practical sessions at the company. In additional, each year the study programme curriculum is checked to see if it still meets the requirements of the sector that these companies represent. This makes sure students are trained to be able to move straight into a job in the region.

Experience gardens in Maasduinen

HAS University of Applied Sciences enjoys working with pioneers such as Lucassen, and is often involved in multiple joint projects at the same time. For example, final-year students have been working for the past couple of months on a local initiative to bring the agricultural and tourist sectors closer together. The idea is to combine experience and education regarding locally grown agricultural produce, in the form of an ‘experience garden’. Lucassen is one of the ambassadors for the project. “Lucassen doesn’t just see themselves as a producer, they also want to add value to the product,” says HAS lecturer Esther Vennekens. “This makes the company an interesting partner for HAS to work with on different levels.”

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Published at june 27th 2016