Inside Logistics

Groupe Robert building automated food DC in Quebec

Temperature-controlled building will store 60,000 pallets, half fresh and half frozen


March 15, 2021
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The new facility will be 150 feet high and store 60,000 pallets.

Groupe Robert plans to build an automated distribution centre in Varennes, Quebec. The centre is scheduled to be operational in early 2023.

The building is estimated to cost about $150 million, and will be funded through $40 million provided by the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and $15 million loan from the Government of Quebec.

Located near Highway 30, ont he south shore of the St. Lawrence River, the vertical capacity distribution centre will boast a height of 150 feet with storage capacity for 60,000 pallets: 30,000 for fresh products and 30,000 for frozen products.

This new facility will build on Groupe Robert’s nearby Boucherville agri-food complexes and is designed to meet the food industry’s ever-growing demand for refrigerated and frozen goods. The initiative is aligned with the Quebec Government’s strategy to promote food autonomy and buying local.

A carbon dioxide (CO2) system will provide the building’s refrigeration needs. In addition to being a highly efficient refrigerant, CO2 is extremely safe when compared with ammonia or freon. In addition, an oxygen-reducing system installed in the automated warehouse area will considerably reduce fire hazards.

Heat recovery

The centre will be equipped with a heat recovery system that will reuse heat generated by the refrigeration equipment to provide heating required to ensure the building’s operations as well as to heat the exterior concrete slabs on the loading docks.

Solar panels and a rainwater collection system to be used for washing trailers will complete energy-efficient features of the company’s flagship building.

Construction of the project has been awarded to general contractor Construction Sorel. Groupe Robert has also engaged the services of architect Jean Carol Fournier and engineering firm Tetra Tech, to accompany the company until completion of the project.

“Challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic have reminded us of the importance of having a strong distribution network for Quebec’s agri-food producers and processors,” said Janie Béïque, executive vice-president, investments, Fonds de solidarité FTQ.

“Thanks to its extensive experience in transport and logistics, Groupe Robert is able to carry out this important project for a key sector of Quebec’s economy.”

Founded in 1946, Groupe Robert has 3,500 employees and provides integrated logistics, distribution, warehousing and transportation services. Groupe Robert owns and operates more than 40 distribution centres, which together represent 3.5 million square feet of warehousing space.