If you enjoyed a nice juicy lobster at any point this past summer, you might have Riverdale Mills to thank. The Northbridge company is one of the largest manufacturers of welded wire mesh in the world. Its products are used in a variety of industries — not just in marine and aquaculture but also security, farming and construction. Everything is made at their 390,000-square-foot facility in Northbridge, and its flagship product, Aquamesh®, is now used to build 80 percent of all lobster and crab traps fished in North America and about 70 percent of traps used in Europe.

This week, Riverdale Mills announced it was the recipient of a Global Trade Award by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts International Business Council, which recognizes companies in the commonwealth that set the standard for operating a business globally. In a question and answer session, the company discussed its future plans and vast global presence.

Which markets do you serve?
Riverdale Mills’ facility is located in a completely renovated 1840s mill building. The factory floor houses multiple state-of-the-art welding and coating machines, all of which are meticulously maintained and continually upgraded.

Riverdale’s welding machines are some of the widest welding machines in the world, which permits the company to produce the broadest possible range of products for its customers. Riverdale Mills product line includes: Aquamesh for the marine and aquaculture industries; WireWall high security, commercial and residential fencing secures the U.S./Mexican border, MIT’s Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, the U.S. embassy in Panama and can be found in areas of Kuwait; Soft-Step agriculture product for safer and more sanitary flooring in breeder and broiler houses; and Geomesh for the construction, land management and landscaping industries.

Riverdale also manufactures steel, stainless steel and copper wire mesh that is available in a variety of sizes, gauges, finishes and colors for animal cages, greenhouses, architectural design elements, safety barriers, shelving and packing crates to name a few.

Riverdale Mills is also one of the world’s leading producers of specialty PVC powder coating compounds. With more than 35 years in the vinyl compounding business, Riverdale has developed a large library of formulas and has extensive experience in formulating phthalate-free PVC compounds to meet the myriad demands of its customers.

How do you maintain a competitive edge?
Riverdale purchases the finest wire at the most competitive prices primarily from the U.S. and Canada. The company manufactures 3,500 different types of wire mesh in its 390,000-square-foot facility to meet the myriad needs of its customers. Riverdale Mills is committed to delivering unparalleled customer service.

Riverdale’s in-house engineers have the ability to customize a large portion of the company’s wire mesh product line to meet domestic and international design requirements and standards. This allows Riverdale to produce an extraordinarily broad spectrum of products, which sets the company apart from other global wire manufacturers.

In addition, Riverdale keeps abreast of industry trends and works to anticipate the needs of its customers. In 2015, Riverdale Mills was awarded the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bio-Preferred Label for its MarineMax PVC Wire Coating. MarineMax is a thermoplastic, bio-based fusible coating that is made from renewable plant based materials compounded with thermoplastic resins, pigments and stabilizers. MarineMax was invented by Riverdale Mills to provide an alternative to traditional petroleum-based plasticizer offerings.

In addition, Riverdale Mills uses water from the Blackstone River to generate its own electricity via hydropower, heats the plant from the plants processes and generates electricity with gas fired diesel generators.

Describe your international operations.
All of Riverdale Mills welded wire mesh products are manufactured at the company’s headquarters in Northbridge. While Riverdale exports its products globally, Riverdale Mills is committed to providing and keeping jobs in Massachusetts. With export sales now accounting for 32 percent of gross sales, almost doubled the amount in 2012, Riverdale has increased staff by nearly 100 percent in the past four years and has recently implemented a 24/7 manufacturing schedule. This increase is largely due to growth in the marine, aquaculture and security industry markets where Riverdale has a solid reputation for outstanding products and superior customer service. In particular, Riverdale has had to respond to the considerable increase in demand for its Aquamesh and WireWall products.

Approximately 70 percent of lobster and crab traps in Europe are made with Aquamesh and miles of WireWall is used, for example, to protect the Kuwait border, in Panama (U.S. embassy), American Samoa (Pago Pago International Airport), Nigeria (Canadian Embassy), British Columbia (Vancouver Transit System) and in Mexico (Toyota manufacturing plant). The company saw a 44-percent increase in sales during FY 2014-2015 for both Aquamesh and WireWall.

What are your long-term plans?
Over the past 36 years, Riverdale Mills has physically grown through renovation and expansions, and this year is no exception. Riverdale is in the process of adding an additional 35,000 square feet to allow for increased production space and product output which will require the hiring of additional employees. The mill now occupies almost 400,000 square feet; the existing renovation should be completed early next year.

With more than 40-percent growth in annual sales during FY 2014-2015, the marine industry continues to be a steady area of growth for Riverdale. Approximately 80 percent of the lobster traps in North America are built with Riverdale’s marquee product, Aquamesh. In addition to the lobster industry, Riverdale is heavily invested in the aquaculture market, which is predicted to reach $200 billion by 2020. Aquamesh is used to build a number of aquaculture products including crab creels, fish pens and, in topmost demand, oyster cages.

The high security fencing market, another one of Riverdale’s growth markets, is expected to reach $29.1 billion by 2018. Riverdale expects a steady and continued increase in demand for WireWall for the foreseeable future. Of note, Riverdale experienced a 44-percent increase in sales of its high-security fencing product WireWall in FY 2015-2016.

Riverdale expects to further increase its export sales in the foreseeable future by continuing to form strategic business partnerships and further establish distribution sources abroad. Presently, 32 percent of sales are from international business. Riverdale would like to see its export business to represent 40 percent of its annual sales.

Located on the Blackstone Valley River, Riverdale will continue its commitment to conserving the natural habitat around the mill. As part of the initial restoration of the mill, the Knott family rebuilt the dam and rehydrated the adjacent pond. The company’s generator now supplies about 10 percent of Riverdale’s electricity, thus reducing the company’s carbon footprint. In restoring the mill pond, Riverdale provides a habitat for the wetland plants, trees and animals, allows the ponds biodiversity to flourish, and creates a safe environment for a variety of fish, reptiles and birds – including a family of bald eagles – to nest.