Several Canadian companies will exhibit at the Global Cold Chain Expo in Chicago in late June. Among the Canuck exhibitors is Vancouver-headquartered VersaCold, which operates Canada’s largest temperature-sensitive logistics network. VersaCold President Doug Harrison said the expo presents a “great opportunity” for his company’s operations and business development personnel to meet with customers and participate in educational sessions. “It is a big event,” said Mr. Harrison, who has attended the expo in the past and whose company is a member of the Global Cold Chain Alliance, which organizes the expo. “There are a lot of people. There are a lot of conversations taking place. There are great educational programs. There are great networking opportunities.”

The expo takes place June 25 to 29.More than 7,500 decisions-makers and innovators gather at the annual event, according to the expo’s website. The event is co-located with the International Floriculture Expo, the United FreshMKT Expo, United FreshTEC Expo, and the new SmartFood Expo, “bringing together the most innovative products and solutions in the perishables industry.” Exhibitors and attendees include companies involved in “all forms of refrigerated transportation” and those providing “third-party cold storage and refrigeration logistics.”

Quebec firm touts CO2 refrigeration

Also exhibiting from Canada is Carnot Refrigeration Inc. of Trois-Rivières, Que. Founded in 2008, Carnot manufactures environmentally friendly refrigeration systems it developed that use carbon dioxide as the refrigerant. The systems are deployed in supermarkets, data centres, skating rinks, vineyards, and fruit and vegetable warehouses.

“It’s a well-known technology in the supermarket industry and more and more we are doing a lot of big supermarket chains right now in Canada,” said company President Marc-André Lesmerises. “All the four biggest supermarket chains use CO2 as the main refrigerant.”

Other Canadian companies exhibiting at the expo include Coldbox Builders, a Vaughan, Ont. firm that designs and builds food and beverage processing facilities; Global Insulated Doors Ltd. of Concord, Ont., which makes custom doors for cold storage; and Damotech, a company based in Boisbriand, Que., that produces repair kits for warehouse racks.

Thirty-two warehouses from coast to coast

Established in 1946 as B.C. Ice & Cold Storage Co., which served the Vancouver fishing industry, VersaCold today has 32 temperature-controlled warehouses from coast to coast, and a fleet of more than 700 tractors and 1,000 trailers. It handles more that 450,000 shipments and 1.2 billion pounds of products annually. “We also manage another roughly $60 million in transportation that is not on our assets,” Mr. Harrison said.

For a time, following the 2005 purchase of P&O Cold Storage, VersaCold had operations in the U.S., Australia, Argentina, and New Zealand. In 2010, the company sold the offshore operations and returned to its Canadian roots. However, it retains a global presence. “We still do all sorts of international ocean and international air,” Mr. Harrison said. “We do cross-border transportation into the United States. We have linkages into Mexico. And then we manage on a non-asset-based service level other services globally.” About 40 per cent of the company’s business is international with 60 per cent domestic.

Looking for U.S. opportunities

About 25 per cent of Carnot’s business is now in the U.S. Mr. Lesmireses hopes exhibiting at the Chicago expo will help Carnot grow its U.S. presence. “It’s a nice place to be, to meet with those end users and contractors at the same time,” Mr. Lesmerises said.

The company, which has 50 to 60 employees, will be sending four to staff the booth at the expo. What it won’t send is any of its refrigeration units, which measure about 20 feet long and weigh around 25,000 pounds.

Attending the show is important because of the networking opportunities for him and his employees, said Mr. Lesmerises, who has attended in the past and will be a presenter at one of the educational sessions. “It also opens your mind to other sectors or other customers that you didn’t notice before,” he said. “And you learn at little bit more about what is ongoing in the industry.”

At present, Carnot doesn’t manufacture systems for transportation. However, Mr. Lesmerises noted that Carrier Transicold has developed a container refrigeration system that also uses CO2. And Mercedes-Benz has announced CO2 air-conditioning systems for its S and E class automobiles.

“We don’t do those type of components now,” Mr. Lesmerises said. “We’re open minded for the future if someone wants to work with us but it’s a totally different manufacturing capability that you need to have to build those types of small systems.”

Seeking out innovations

At the Chicago expo, Mr. Harrison and his VersaCold staff expect to interact with major international retailers, producers, and growers, many of them in the fresh produce space.

“For me personally, I’m always excited about new customer trends, market trends,” Mr. Harrison said. “I’m interested in hearing about new technologies and new operations efficiencies, whether it be greening or energy consumption, as well as automation.”

The company will have about eight of its nearly 3,000 employees staffing the booth and another four to six who will attend “from an operating standpoint.” The show will present all those employees with networking opportunities to meet new and current customers. “We’re always spending time in continuous development and learning across our organization,” Mr. Harrison said. “This is just one avenue to do that. So we’re excited to be part of it.”

For more information about the expo, visit