New Brunswick

Tallest building on Sackville skyline is now a huge freezer

Rising from the edge of Sackville's industrial park is a new automated freezer, 14 storeys high.

Visible from the Trans-Canada, Sackville's newest structure is for blueberries and cranberries

Deborah Kay, left, pulled over to ask David and Evelyn Ernst what they are building in Sackville. Kay said the structure piqued her curiosity when she saw it from the Trans-Canada Highway. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

A massive steel structure rising 14 storeys from the edge of Sackville's industrial park is garnering interest and questions from people passing by. 

Visible from the Trans-Canada Highway, it's made of 725,000 kilos of steel, hundreds of thousands of bolts, and could be mistaken for something built by the darkside of the Force.

But according to Evelyn and David Ernst, co-owners of Terra Beata Farms, it's a still-under-construction automated freezer.

Two companies, the Lunenburg-based Terra Beata Farms and Burnbrae Farms, based in Ontario, are building the freezer. 

David Ernst said the automated freezer facility is about 14 storeys high. A town of Sackville bylaw had to be changed to allow for a structure that high. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

But Eveyln Ernst said the freezer will be large enough to store fruit, vegetables and food products from other companies as well to address a shortage of available storage space in the region.

"We have to keep our cranberries frozen year round, and it can be a challenge to find space for cranberries because they are the last fruit crop to ripen in the year."

Site preparation started last May, and construction began in September on the 44-metre-high building, which Evelyn Ernst said is the only one of its kind in Atlantic Canada.

"There are cars that stop along the road every day," she said. "It catches your eye."

The freezer facility is unique for more than just its size.

The freezer is visible from the Trans-Canada Highway and many points around the town of Sackville. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"Instead of having frozen products stored by people driving forklifts, the whole building runs with automatic cranes," Ernst said.

"They can lift product up 140 feet in the air store it and come back and get another pallet."

According to David Ernst, the way the foods will be kept cold is by way of new technology using CO2 rather than ammonia.

"Ammonia, as you probably are aware, has some serious potential health risks," said Ernst referring to a tragic incident in Fernie, B.C., last year that left three men dead when an aging piece of ice-making machinery leaked ammonia.

He added that the new system will be more energy efficient. 

"It takes less horsepower to generate the same refrigerating effect."

Cranes are used to put together 725,000 kilos of steel in Sackville's industrial park. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Instead of a traditional sprinkler system, Ernst said a fire prevention system is being installed.

"The system lowers the oxygen by adding nitrogen rich normal air." 

While the air is still breathable, Ernst said, the atmosphere inside the facility will prevent fires from starting.

He said 95 per cent of the steel has been installed, but the building is far from finished. 

"I'd like to see it done yesterday, but honestly it's going to be more like Easter," he said. 

Once completed, the building will be enclosed with siding and have the capacity to store 9,000 pallets.

Handy spot for Nova Scotia companies

While the companies behind the construction are both from outside the province, Evelyn Ernst said Sackville was chosen because of its central location.

"It's easy for the transport trucks to get from the Trans-Canada to the site and it's also right at the intersection point between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I."

The building is the tallest in the town, so large, that a bylaw had to be changed to allow for its construction.

Ernst said because of the automation, the facility will only likely bring four new jobs to the town. But alongside the massive freezer is a former egg-processing plant, built by Burnbrae Farms in 2007.

The building will be used as a warehouse and berry-processing plant in partnership with East Coast Wild Blueberries of Great Village, N.S.

Corrections

  • ​An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the ownership of the project. Lunenburg-based Terra Beata Farms and Burnbrae Farms of Ontario are building the freezer. ​East Coast Wild Blueberries of Great Village, N.S., was not one of the builders but is a partner in other aspects of the venture.
    Jan 15, 2019 2:13 PM AT