Picture yourself in a room surrounded by thousands of rounds of French cheese and pallets of imported chocolate. Sound like a dream? You could be standing in Seafrigo’s 180,000-square-foot cold storage facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Unfortunately, it’s also a brisk 38 degrees Fahrenheit in there. Hopefully you remembered your jacket.
At I.CON: The Industrial Conference, a cold storage tour gave attendees a behind-the-scenes look at cold storage facilities in the area, including Seafrigo’s building in Elizabeth.
A French company, Seafrigo stores mostly imported products from Europe in that location, including cheeses and chocolates. The facility has the capacity to handle 20,000 pallets of refrigerated product, with three separate chambers set to different temperatures and humidities to suit the products being stored. Chocolate is stored around 50 degrees, for example, and cheeses need to be kept at a higher humidity to keep from drying out.
Attendees also toured Seafrigo’s nearby freezer, which ups the ante, clocking in at 58 feet high and a cool negative 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The floor is comprised of three layers: 7-8 inches of concrete on top of six inches of insulation on top of 3-6 inches of “rat slab,” which is heated to prevent the ground below from freezing.
Next, attendees visited a Preferred Freezer location in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The 24/7 facility serves a whopping 150 trucks per day, and the company’s untethered automated carts they call “moles” handle the automatic truck loading and unloading. Battery technology has evolved along with innovations in autonomous vehicles, so the 500-pound moles can fully charge their lithium batteries in just 30 seconds.
The last stop on the tour was a project for Preferred Freezer under construction in Kearney, New Jersey. The site is on top of a former landfill, so considerable ground improvements were necessary before construction could begin. The building utilizes Menard’s Controlled Modulus Columns (CMC) rigid inclusions technique. The sustainable, cost-effective ground improvement solution “transmits load from the foundation to a lower bearing strata through a composite interaction between the rigid element and the softer soil matrix,” according to the company.
As one can imagine, the advanced technologies and specifications that cold storage facilities require come with a price tag: All-in development costs for cold storage facilities run about double the cost of similar dry facilities. Leases are typically longer (20-25 years) and re-tenanting can be difficult because the facilities are built to suit and often have very specialized setups. However, rent is 2-3 times what it would be in a typical dry building.
With increasing food delivery demand, the growth of services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, and the potential for the Amazon/Whole Foods merger to make a big splash in the e-grocery industry soon, many see cold storage facilities as an area poised for tremendous growth.