(June 16) WATSONVILLE, Calif. — By the time the 2004 winter strawberry deal kicks off later this year, Coastal Berry Co. hopes to have its new cooling facility in full operation in Oxnard.

The company broke ground on June 7, and construction is expected to continue throughout the summer.

President and chief executive officer John Gargiulo said the state-of-the-art cooling equipment in the new cooler will allow the berries to cool in about an hour, as opposed to the two hours it currently takes.

With five loading bays and 11 cooling tunnels, Gargiulo said Coastal will be able to keep the berries at one temperature for the entire time they are at the facility.

With 36,000 square feet of space, the facility has the capacity to cool and transfer to trucks more than 80,000 boxes of berries per day. Gargiulo said 100% of Coastal’s berry product will go through the facility.

Coastal has more than 2,000 acres of growing fields in Oceanside, Oxnard, Santa Maria, Salinas and the Monterey Bay area.