A formula for successful fynbos production
Farmer's Weekly|June 18, 2021
Nico Thuynsma’s love for all things floral and horticultural, and fynbos in particular, led him to establish a nursery and cut flower operation in the Cullinan area of Gauteng, where he produces proteas and other types of fynbos. Pieter Dempsey spoke to him about his passion for growing these plants.
Pieter Dempsey

Nico Thuynsma grows a wide variety of fynbos on a 21ha farm in Cullinan, Gauteng. His business, Madibri, is spread out over four properties, each with its own microclimate suited to different cultivars.

When he started in 1997, the entire enterprise was centred on the production of cut flowers, but today this makes up only 30% of the business.

His main focus now is on the cultivation of fynbos, which he sells to other farmers and nurseries. The decision to switch from cut flower production to a nursery operation was motivated by the regular damage his flowers suffered from black frost. This problem and the risk of hail made the nursery operation and production of plants, rather than flowers, a better option in the long run. Moreover, he says, proteas are slow growers. “If you lose your cut flowers to frost, it could mean you have your next crop only in two years’ time.”

The production of plants, in contrast, takes six to 12 months, and is done under cover to protect the young plants from frost and hail. This means a more stable cash flow.

The cut flowers that he does still produce are mostly rare cultivars such as natural hybrids. In total, Thuynsma produces around 37 varieties of protea, eight varieties of Leucospermum (pincushion), 14 of Leucadendron (conebush) and 29 of Erica (heath). He holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Pretoria, which he puts to good use, as he regularly consults with prospective and existing farmers, and presents workshops on fynbos cultivation.

PRODUCTION AND HARVESTING

Thuynsma grows about 5ha to proteas, which comprise 10 000 king, 3 000 Liebencherry, and 3 000 Susara proteas. “We’re not able to plant much more than 5ha due to water constraints,” he says.

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