Flower transport from Kenya by sea instead of air freight

To make the flower industry carbon neutral it is inevitable that the default intercontinental transport modality has to be converted from air to sea. This project aims to develop more robust, cost effective and sustainable technologies for sea freight of flowers from Kenya.

From Kenya to the world

Kenya is one of the biggest producers and exporters of flowers in the world. The country’s climate, with daily sunshine and mild temperatures year-round, is perfect for growing flowers. Each day, millions of cut flowers – mostly roses - are transported from Kenya by air. Transport by sea freight would reduce the carbon footprint considerably. The challenge is keeping the flowers fresh for 4-5 weeks during transport, so that the vase life on the consumer side doesn’t suffer.

Air vs. sea freight

Most international transport of flowers is by airplane. The reasons are both related to the perishability of the product and to the fluctuating prices at destination. Currently some flowers are sea-freighted in refrigerated containers on a regular basis. This mode of transport takes longer but lowers the carbon footprint significantly and creates more capacity and flexibility at about half the cost when compared to airplane transportation. However, for many flowers, a 4-5 week transport period is not yet feasible without unacceptable quality loss. First of all, this is related to the physiology of the flowering stems.


In this project we will investigate the physiological processes that are involved in flower performance during long-term storage or transportation. In addition, we will investigate the contribution to the eventual outcome of genotype, cultivation and crop management, postharvest treatments, consolidation issues, packaging and transportation conditions and we will address multicriteria decision support models for transport mode choice to develop more robust (reliable and predictable), cost effective and sustainable (carbon footprint) technologies for flower transport from Kenya.