“Four technology forces that will reshape the floral world” 

The floral industry is not immune to the forces of technology and science. Just as the internet profoundly changed the industry 20 years ago, we will see the flower business transform again in many ways over the next decade.

Robotic Automation

While mechanical automation so far has been limited to bouquet-making machines, for the most part, we will start to see rapid adoption of robotic technologies in the floral industry, particularly in the mass-market segment. Robotics companies are tripping over themselves to develop one-arm robots that can create AIFD-quality floral designs at more than 300 units per hour.

We are already seeing robots make coffee, mix drinks, and make pizzas and pancakes, and they’re being rapidly adopted by many service industries. In many cases, it’s not to save money but because of the lack of workers. As long as consumers get fresher, better quality product for less money, many of them won’t care if their flower arrangements are made by a human or a machine.

Smart Coolers

mart Vending Machines (or, as some people call this, unmanned retail) are starting to pop up everywhere worldwide, and they are becoming accepted by consumers as a convenience at the retail level. While they may capture only a fraction of total retail sales, there is a place for smart machines that can sell flowers 24/7 and deliver via Uber and Lyft. Consumers won’t tolerate “bankers’ hours” anymore, and much of the retail floral industry goes dark on weekdays from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., and also on weekends That just won’t last going forward. You can’t travel to Asia these days without bumping into flower-cooler vending machines at major airports. Look for these smart floral vending machines to start trickling over to North America over the next several years and capturing a good chunk of retail flowers sales.

Last-mile Delivery

The battle to deliver retail goods as fast as possible, and at as low a cost as possible now has the heavyweights jumping in. This trend started with crowd-sourced drivers (Uber, Lyft, Deliv, etc.), but it is quickly progressing into unmanned delivery technologies such as autonomous drones and droids. Amazon, Walmart, Target, Dominos, Kroger and others are investing billions to perfect technology that will deliver a hot pizza, fresh-baked bread or flowers 24/7 at minimal cost. And this technology is coming much faster than people imagine, at a far lower cost than any company truck and driver can match.

Ocean Shipping

As the process of ocean shipping of flowers is perfected, many countries will be able to enter the U.S. market, once they’re not constrained by air cargo rates, capacity and routes. This won’t be limited to traditional shipping containers as companies start developing high-speed cargo boats that can cruise at 50 knots rather than 10 knots. The market for all perishables – not just fresh flowers – will be transformed even further, and retail prices for products should drop.

For a sneak preview of the latest technology in floral, put the International Floriculture Expo (IFE) show, held in Miami, Fla., this June 2019, on your travel calendar. They plan to have a “futurist technology” exhibit to showcase some of the most interesting technology from numerous floral companies around the country.

About Alex Frost

Alex Frost has founded and operated multiple technology and marketing companies in the floral industry for more than 25 years. He has also developed unique supply chain software for the flower industry. Contact him via email at alex@quickflora.com.