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ReefTools visits Drs. Foster and Smith and LiveAquaria part 1

Posted on Sunday, March 21st, 2010 at 11:35 pm by

We recently had a chance to visit Drs. Foster and Smith (DFS) and LiveAquaria in Rhinelander, WI, and decided to share what we saw and learned. We are confident that most of our readers are familiar with the Drs. Foster and Smith, LiveAquaria, and the new Foster and Smith Aquatics websites, but though you would enjoy a behind the scenes look.

First off, we would like to thank Kevin Kohen, Director of LiveAquaria, for taking the time to show us around the DFS facilities, including the coral farm.

This part of the Drs. Foster and Smith visit series, will focus on the Dry Goods warehouse facility. The 300,000 square feet state-of-the-art warehouse, houses any imaginable pet supply items available (and some unimaginable ones too). The sheer number of products DFS stocks is truly staggering. We When an order comes through, a corresponding plastic bin is scanned and the process begins. The bin travels on the “green monster”, a computerized convoy system which travels throughout the massive warehouse.


Controlled by scanners and a set of automated arms, the bin gets redirected to the correct isles. Once the bin arrives at it’s first destination, it pauses, while a series of lights indicate which items should be added to this order. Once the items are added to the bin, it is placed back on the belt, and continues on it’s way to it’s next destination. Once the order is completed, the bin is redirected to the packaging center, where the items are matched against the order before everything is boxed.


With this kind of redundancy and automation, it’s not surprising that DFS is able to fulfill an almost absurd number of orders quickly and accurately. Each box is put together by a special machine, then an employee adds a catalog (of course 🙂 ) and fills the extra space with bio-degradable packing peanuts (which they house is huge holding rooms). This Green approach to packing, is just DFS doing their part in conserving the environment. Once the orders are ready to be shipped, DFS employees load up a slew of FedEx trailers which have their own parking lot at the facility. DFS ships so many orders, that they actually sort the packages for FedEx, based on their destination. Overall, the operation is top-notch, with every detail carefully planned and accounted for.


We hope you enjoyed this article and photos, please heck back soon for part 2 of this series, which will cover the LiveAquaria Aquaculture Coral and Marine Life Facility”.

Felicia has been keeping aquariums since the early 90s and has a keen interest in taxonomy, aquaculture, and seahorses. she is the former Liveaquaria Diver's Den photographer and now works for Philadelphia area's largest aquarium specialty store The Hidden Reef.

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9 Responses to “ReefTools visits Drs. Foster and Smith and LiveAquaria part 1”

  1. Aaron Witt says:

    this is great, i can’t wait for part 2

  2. Mike Plummer says:

    I used to be right in their back yard (sort of). DFS has an amazing facility – I sure hope you got into the Coral Farm! One of my best days of reefing was shopping straight from their raceways.

  3. Tony Nista says:

    yes, but where are the pictures of the Hodag?

  4. Felicia McCaulley says:

    Right, Hodag! That’s why I felt like something was missing 😉

  5. Reef Tools says:

    Mike, part 2 will cover the coral farm.
    T & F…’s coming!!! sheesh 😉

  6. Tony Nista says:


  7. Michael Schroeder says:

    Very Nice!! I bet that was an awesome time

  8. RT says:

    You bet!! It was very impressive.

  9. Deere G says:

    Very impressive. Look at all of those packing peanuts. Haha
    I would love to check that out.

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