With everything that has been going on, I feel like I should be further along in this internship than just three weeks. I’ve attended multiple lectures on the background of Ball, their supply chain, the history of production horticulture, and most recently Darwin Perennials Day.
Darwin Perennials is a subsidiary company of Ball Horticulture. They are a supplier of cuttings, young plants, and seed to partner growers of Ball. Yesterday, they held their annual even in the trial gardens. Darwin invites greenhouses, suppliers, and other companies to view the new or improved perennials within Ball Seed Gardens. It gives growers the opportunity to see a plant in person before purchasing it December for the next year’s season.
Ball Seed Gardens
Aside from viewing the plants, there were multiple companies of greenhouse supplies in attendance. There was a plant tag provider, growers and other trial gardens of Ball’s products, production machinery, a plastics company that made pots, and irrigation companies. Multiple Ball Seed sales reps were also in attendance for the training meetings being held in the office center. It was a great networking opportunity for me, and I even scheduled a future job shadow with the sales rep back in Michigan.
The vendors at Darwin Perennials Day
Ball Horticultural Company has a very large focus on education. This is education of youth, their suppliers, growers, and employees. It also covers their interns, so all 12 of us were involved in several tours and meetings this past week to educate us on different aspects of the company. My favorite tour of the week was when we got to tour their production and research facility in Elburn, IL.
Ball Horticultural owns several other business and one of those is PanAmerican Seed, a supplier of ornamentals and vegetables. PanAmerican Seed, perhaps best known for CoolWave Petunias, in Elburn also conducts research, in house breeding, and field trials. They have several ongoing field trials that we were able to tour as well as a trial with hydroponics.
Aside from learning about their recent research, we learned how the discovery of the genetically modified orange petunias have been affecting them. If you aren’t sure what I’m referring to, a Finnish company discovered that a particular variety of orange petunias that had been released onto the market unknowingly had come from GM origins. This causes an issue within the EU where GM products are not allowed as well as the US which requires a permit when selling a GM product. Ultimately, the government came to the decision that the orange petunias must be removed from the market. Greenhouses, suppliers, and breeders are now in the midst of testing and removing every variety of petunia on their grounds to determine if they are related to the orange petunias.
At PanAmerican Seed, the petunias are currently sitting in a greenhouse where they are waiting for a break in the planting of ground trials in order to dispose of them. Disposal requires either burning or burial a foot under ground as well as paper and photo documentation as proof. It has been interesting to hear of the GM orange petunia discovery from the marketing and sales side and now to see it first hand from the research and supplier side.
After I received the phone offering me an internship with Ball Horticultural Company, moving to West Chicago was at the front of my mind for weeks, so it’s hard to believe that I have been here for just over one week already. My position is officially titled Market Research and Product Development Intern. However, from my very first day, upper management made it clear to each of us that we were not “just an intern,” but were considered an employee of the company. This statement, rather than terrify me, has actually given me a boost of confidence in my position, myself, and my project. My official project for the summer will begin next week, so I’ll keep that quiet for now.
My internship at Ball is with the GrowIt! phone application. Its main goal is to connect plant enthusiasts with one another through sharing photos of their plants, let users see what plants are being grown in their area, as well as get plants identified. GrowIt! is also branching out with Bluetooth enabled tours in local botanical gardens, and this was what I spent my first week working on.
The Toronto Botanical Garden’s tour will be rolling out next week. As a user walks through the garden with the app, the area they are in will light up on the map and they can then click the section to see what plants are growing as well as information regarding those plants. I was tasked with ensuring that all of Toronto’s plants were entered into the database in time for the tour. While it was mundane, I enjoyed learning many of the binomial names of the plants since I have not taken a plant identification class like most horticulture students.
My first full week was rather slow since I spent most of my time learning about my project and working on the Toronto tour. However, I am settling into my role quickly and have made many connections within the company already. I am certainly ready to hit the ground running next week to begin working on my official project!