In four short years, AGRO Merchants Group has become the fifth-largest third-party cold storage and logistics provider in the world, according to statistics from the Global Cold Chain Alliance. PBUK speaks with group CEO Carlos Rodríguez to find out how AGRO’s global network and integrated services are developing rapidly for the benefit of the international fresh produce supply chain.
Established in 2013, AGRO provides integrated cold chain services; meaning apart from cold storage and logistics, the firm offers additional value-added services, like picking, packaging, fruit ripening, quality control inspections, import/export management, customs clearance and freight forwarding, among others.
Globally, AGRO owns and operates 61 facilities covering over 6.7 million cubic metres of temperature-controlled warehouse and distribution space in 11 countries. The group handles a range of commodities from meat, seafood and dairy, to fresh fruits and vegetables; the latter accounting for about 25 percent of AGRO’s total volumes.
To reflect its geographical reach, the group recently began a rebranding project that will see all of its portfolio businesses shift from their legacy brand names to the umbrella brand AGRO; enabling the group to move forward as one unified company.
“We have an unrivalled international fresh produce network, covering the Iberian region, the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland and the US,” group CEO Carlos Rodríguez tells PBUK.
“We want to keep growing this network and developing our services. We are committed to building a truly international network ready to serve our clients in multiple locations.”
With AGRO experiencing higher demand for space and value-added services, since last year the group has added five new locations in Europe and is now looking for an opportunity in the UK.
In addition, the firm has invested significantly in additional capacity in Spain, the Netherlands and the US, while continuing to equip its facilities with the highest standard of technology and sustainable solutions.
The latest expansion in Europe includes reinforcing AGRO’s presence in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, via a brand new port facility; and entering into the Portuguese and Polish markets with a facility in the Lisbon area, as well as two in the Porto area; plus another in Gdansk.
Furthermore, AGRO has built a new facility at the Port of Rotterdam that started operating 10 months ago in recognition of the fact that Rotterdam is one of the key logistics hubs for the global movement of perishables.
“In Rotterdam, our service offering for fresh fruits and vegetables is very diverse,” says Rodríguez.
“Apart from storage and logistics, we can provide value-added services such as sorting, quality control inspections, ripening, several types of packaging, grape cutting, customs clearance, transport and a range of other services.
“Our new facility located in the Maasvlakte at the Port of Rotterdam has a current capacity of 18,000 pallet spaces and is very flexible in terms of the development of new services.
“Also, in Maasvlakte we operate the most modern border inspection post (BIP), approved by the European Commission.”
Elsewhere in Europe, AGRO has acquired three new businesses in the form of Frissul and Frigomato in Portugal, and PSTL in Poland.
Although AGRO already had a solid presence in Iberia (with locations in Algeciras and Barcelona, Spain), the company found the two local companies located in the Lisbon and Porto areas were a great match for the group.
“The addition of Frissul and Frigomato to the company extends our geographical coverage and enhances our capability to offer full transportation and distribution solutions to existing and new customers,” notes Rodríguez.
Meanwhile, in Poland, PSTL was deemed to be another “great fit” for AGRO in terms of its culture, customer focus and value-added services.
“Poland and eastern Europe are very important geographies for AGRO, and this acquisition allows us to expand significantly our presence and services into this key market,” Rodríguez adds.
As well as acquiring new locations, AGRO has made significant investments in additional capacity at its existing bases in Algeciras, Spain; Rotterdam, the Netherlands; and Vineland in the US.
“Algeciras is an excellent location with market-leading import and export lead times, which is very important for fresh produce,” explains Rodríguez.
“We finalised the expansion of our facility in Algeciras in September 2016. It increased their capacity fivefold; bringing it up to 15,600 pallet spaces.”
In Rotterdam, AGRO’s local outfit ADB Cool Company has also made significant investments to expand its facilities in order to accommodate rising demand.
“The expansion project at ADB Cool Company was completed in October 2016 and has brought greater capacity and services to customers in the fresh produce sector,” Rodríguez explains.
“Some 6,000 pallet spaces were added to the existing capacity, bringing the site to a capacity of 23,198 pallet positions. The expansion also enhanced the company’s repacking capabilities through a substantial investment in new facilities, equipment and technology.”
Across in the US, Lucca Freezer and Cold Storage in Vineland, New Jersey, has been bolstered by its first expansion, which began in September 2015.
“This expansion provides additional cold storage space, specialised kiwifruit storage facilities and additional dock space to handle its continuously increasing volumes,” notes Rodríguez.
“In August 2016, Lucca also finished a second expansion by adding 55,000ft2 of repacking area including a purpose-built mezzanine to handle the growing inventory of packaging supplies.”
Rodríguez says AGRO has and will continue to invest into integrated cold chain services worldwide, in addition to improving its cold storage and logistics offer.
“We’re always on the look-out for new opportunities for the development of such services,” he points out.
Indeed, AGRO is currently seeking investment options in the UK to complement its seven facilities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“Fruit and vegetables are amongst the commodities we can handle at these sites, but these facilities are highly flexible so they are not exclusively focused on any specific food category,” Rodríguez explains.
“We want to expand further into mainland UK. It’s very important that we find the best possible partner that would fit in well into our current network in terms of company culture, commodity specialisation, value-added services, quality infrastructure and operations, as well as customer base.”
Overall, Rodríguez says AGRO stands apart thanks to being able to provide all of the cold chain needs of its clients via a single platform.
“With our commodity expertise, robust IT systems and financial stability we are a reliable partner and we offer our clients a solution that works across multiple markets,” he explains.
“We work very closely with our customers to listen and learn about their supply chain needs, and we develop the best solutions that are mutually beneficial.
“Our vision is to be the leading partner in temperature-controlled logistics for the global food industry.”
AGRO Merchants Group will exhibit at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference 2017 on 15-17 November at the Westergasfabriek.
Register online here now.
Or contact us here to book a booth.