As 2019 draws to a close, we look back on another successful year for AGRO Merchants Group.
First, we continued our strategy of growth through acquisitions and expansions of existing facilities. In June, AGRO added three new locations to our network in the Iberian region with the acquisition of cold stores in Valencia, Leixões and Sines from Grupo Romeu. This purchase adds to our existing footprint with locations in Barcelona, Algeciras, Lisbon and Porto, which permits AGRO to offer customers unmatched coverage and service capabilities in this important import/export region.
Also in Q2 2019, AGRO expanded our U.S. West Coast presence by acquiring Cool-Pak Solutions (renamed AGRO Merchants Carson), a provider of storage and repacking services based in Long Beach, California. Originally founded to support fresh produce firms with their import/export activities in Southern California, the company has a premium location within the Port along with deep expertise across a range of services including inspection, grading, repacking, reconditioning, cross-docking and fumigation.
Another important investment in 2019 was our purchase of a newly-built cold store facility in Dublin. This location, along existing operations elsewhere in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and England expanded our position in a growing market and enhanced our capabilities in terms of delivering value-added services.
AGRO also made significant new investments into our transport business in Northern Ireland – increasing the fleet, enhancing its transport management system and reinforcing key areas of the business to support further growth over the next five years.
In September, we completed a sizable expansion of our cold store in Urk, The Netherlands. This strategic investment brought the total capacity of the facility to more than 45,000 pallet positions and 20,000 square meters of refrigerated space and added a dedicated chamber for -60°C storage, blast freezing cells and further space for case picking.
We continue to expand our service offerings through the development of new value-added services. In Pedricktown, New Jersey, AGRO implemented a new automated solution to de-box and break meat blocks, thereby mechanizing a service currently done manually and providing a more complete solution to our meat import customers. In Vineland, New Jersey, we installed an eight-lane optical grader, which allows us to grade citrus, avocados, and other commodities. This technology utilizes an array of cameras to photograph individual pieces of fruit, analyze defects, and grade the fruit accordingly. It is used extensively in many farming and packing operations throughout the world, and in Vineland, it will support our goal of using a consistent method to grade fresh produce.
According to the Global Cold Chain Alliance, the most important consideration for food companies in selecting a cold chain partner is customer service, followed by location and price. Other important factors include responsiveness, flexibility, accuracy, reliability and accurate reporting. As our industry grows and business processes become more complex, AGRO is well positioned to support customer needs in an ever changing global environment.
At AGRO Merchants Group, we will continue pursuit of our mission to deliver superior fresh and frozen food handling solutions through our international facility network. In 2020, we will invest in new space and services to broaden our capabilities. We will strive to distinguish ourselves in the marketplace through our unmatched global footprint, commodity expertise, value-added service capabilities, and entrepreneurial spirit. At the same time, we will be self-critical and improve our performance where opportunities exist. Finally and most important, we will remain true to our company Core Values: Openness, Respect, Trust, Determination and Responsiveness.