What's New With CoolBot!
May 2013 NY Farmers! Cornell Cooperative Extensions got funding to help cost share on 60 coolers for small farmers in NY. Contact your extensions agent for more information, the deadline is June 16, 2013. You fill in a short 4 page application about how you'll be using it. They'll be tracking use and it sounds like energy consumption and the difference it makes. Your extension agent will know more. For those of you not in NY, we will try to post other cost share programs as we hear about them, but your extension agent might be quicker. Several other states have had similar programs.
April 2013 A testimonial from a wonderful food bank. We've gotten to know Sarah over the last few years that she's been using the CoolBot and sending us monthly reports of electricity use, which I keep meaning to post in a separate section (It varies based on season and how much comes in --and whether or not they cleaned the fins in the last few months-- but saying it averages out to $1/day in electricity is about right). An amazing organization doing such terrific work! This is a short two minute video. Direct link is here: http://youtu.be/pOm7U36wULc
December 2012 Farmer Anton at Early Morning Farm, an amazing farm in Genoa serving customers across the Finger Lakes region was kind enough to let us interview him about his experiences with the CoolBot. It's a great video! The direct link on youtube is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxTsbMn7ZsA&feature=youtu.be
September 2012 Great stuff from N.C. State! Pac N'Cool Trailer Write-Up This is an EXTREMELY detailed write up, including budget for how to build a walk-in cooler on a trailer. If the link doesn't work, you can cut and paste this into your browser: http://plantsforhumanhealth.ncsu.edu/2012/08/17/%E2%80%9Cpack-%E2%80%98n-cool%E2%80%9D-provides-farmers-with-mobile-refrigeration-solution/
July 2012 Aaron's Coolbot Trailer video! Aaron helped us on our own farm for years and then moved to Ithaca and now has his OWN CSA farm, and in the afternoons he hides from the sun and moonlights helping Patty and I answer the ever-increasing Coolbot call questions (and sometimes he answers them from his cell phone out in the field). He just made a coolbot TRAILER with his family and posted a youtube video! Check it out!!
July 2012 Really nice article on the CoolBot at Cornell Small Farms website! If the link doesn't work, you can just cut and paste this into your browser:
JUNE 2012 [Update: I don't know if this still available for 2013... but you could try? (Someone let me know!)] NY State Growers in need of a walk-in cooler there is something called "Consolidated State Funding" that can help you with up to 50% of the cost. This follows a similar program in Tennesee, sponsored by the state as well. There was also talk for Maine growers about potential incentives through Efficiency Maine. If any Maine growers have experience with whether this worked our, and want to let us know, that would be great! New York Growers, contact your local extension agents. Although the Cornell write-up we saw about this CSF funding specifically mentions and encourages the use of CoolBots (and of course we hope you will want to do it with a CoolBot!) I'm sure you can use conventional walk-in cooler technology. That's what happened in Tennessee, its just that most people still ended up buying coolbots. [Now that I've written this, I know we are going to get a lot of Tenn growers asking about this. I don't know if they will do it in 2012, They ran it for two years. Check with your extension agent.] APR 2012 Just trying to keep up with the normal spring rush of orders! VERY happy to welcome Aaron Munzer on board with Store It Cold!!! He's worked on our farm for many years (I think since he was 15?) So now, 9 years later, we are happy to have him helping us in a COMPLETELY different capacity. Not nearly as dirty. Aaron is helping with phone and email questions during the busy season. Say hi, if he answers your call! FEB 2012 A little late in reporting this, but we're SO PROUD to receive an award from Sustainable Tompkins for "Energy Efficiency" in their annual "Signs of Sustainability" award series. CLICK HERE to see what it's all about (we're the first award listed). Read more about the Sustainable Tompkins program!
JAN 2012 Link to USAID info sheet about the CoolBot! Getting to work with USAID and the UC Davis has been terrific for us. It's opened up steadily increasing international sales which are especially nice because the orders come in big "chunks".
(If the link above doesn't work, you can cut and paste the following address into your browser windown: http://hortcrsp.ucdavis.edu/main/media%20page/IS_Coolbot.pdf).
OCT 2011 See the September update just below!! We've broken ALL sales records this fall, shipping out 750 of the new CoolBots in just weeks! We've sold more this fall that we did our first 2 years combined (when no one believed this could really work). The new version of CoolBot released in September is fully performing to expectations, and YES we still ONLY make CoolBots here in the US! there are just more of us making them now to keep up!
SEPT 2011 **Finally started shipping the NEW CoolBots** It doesn't look like the one in the picture above now, or the one in the youtube.com installation video, but it works the same way and the external wires are of course functionally the same and connect to the air conditioner in exactly the same way, so the youtube video is still fine (but I will update it ASAP!)
It's been five years since we started shipping CoolBots and although we kept doing incremental upgrades, firmware, then a sensor change, mild board changes, we had never done a complete re-tooling of boards, enclosures, connectors and sensors all into one new package. Now Five years of pent-up changes have all exploded into reality in one monstrously awesome new CoolBot!!! A lot of the changes are hard to see, they are inside, but the enclosure is completely different - much sleeker, smaller, and STRONGER. All wires now connect to the BOTTOM of the CoolBot so water can never drip into the enclosure. You can also access them from outside the coolbot (you shouldn't need to, but it's now much easier to if you DO need to!) We also removed all physical buttons from the coolbot and switched to "touch-screen" type buttons. They can NEVER fail or be effected by water. We also changed how we make the board so it's easier to waterproof more completely (We still don't recommend that you operate your coolbot under water, but it can handle it even better now!) I'll update the pictures and youtube video once we get caught up on orders!!
AUGUST 2011 NASA (*Yes! The SPACE people!) SATOP Program Assistance is implemented. An entire page should be devoted to the assistance we got from the wonderful space engineers through the NASA satop program. Okay, now there is a link to their press release in the NEWS! section. CoolBots were selling really well (we shipped the first commercial units in 2006) but by 2009 we were starting to notice problems on one of the sensitive sensors in the CoolBots -- NOT THE AIR CONDITIONERS (Read the FAQ section on how long will my air conditioner last). The CoolBots are designed to notice a problem BEFORE it happens, and they usually did! So generally people didn't lose produce, at it was only in 10% of 3 year old coolers, but we were sending out a LOT of coolbots at that point, and so that meant a lot of replacement parts and people were getting nervous!
And that's when the NASA engineers stepped in. NASA has a "SATOP" program that awards a select number of small companies with free engineering-consulting. We applied and were accepted! We had a feeling that engineers that could handle the extreme climate of space might be able to clue us in to how to keep a computer running in a cold, wet cooler day in and day out for years on end. And boy did they ever! The latest CoolBot design, to be released in September of 2011 is incredibly robust -- and has been tested in much harsher conditions than you will ever manage to put your cooler through.FEB 2011 - Gearing up for the spring rush of US and Canadian orders! We have a good inventory built up, so we don't expect any shipping delays this year. We shipped lots more CoolBot to expand on last years India project which has now collected a ton of data on variety of crops and temperatures in multiple villages around the country. Although we sell thousands of CoolBots in the US, somehow the dozens we've sent out to various international aid projects are the most exciting! The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that up to 40% of fresh produce in developing nations rots on the way to market due to a lack of post harvest care. The CoolBot is a fraction of the cost of a conventional walk-in cooler and uses half as much electricity. Projects have built CoolBot-coolers out of straw, rice husks, even Papyrus!!! The idea that we can (help) increase the net amount of fresh produce in some countries by so much is terrificly stimulating! OCTOBER 2010 - The summer Farmer rush is over, but we're in full-swing shipping to Hunters -- actually shipping more per week to hunters than we were to farmers (but it's a much shorter season). This was a market we hadn't anticipated at all until a couple years ago! We've also started shipping our coolbots through "Fulfillment By Amazon"... it's a neat program. We are not selling coolbots on Amazon yet, but having them handle the shipping now that we're selling so many per week has been a huge relief to us. MAY 2010 - Just in time for the rush of summer farm orders, we're now shipping the improved 5th generation of CoolBot hardware (starting from the first commercial units that went out in 2006 - there were dozens more before that!). Besides internal programming improvements and a (light duty) internal surge protector, we now use full epoxy coating on all sensors making them more robust. *You should still use an external surge protector of your own because CoolBots are NOT immune to lightning strikes. We get at least one call a month from people with lightning strikes. I think this is because home-built cooler-outbuildings are not as well grounded as houses and the lightning ends up going right through the circuitry... Surge protectors seem like such a cheap and easy solution. APRIL 2010 - There are now three demonstration CoolBots operating successfully in different parts of India with full monitoring on energy use, temperature, relative humidity and quality of the stored product. So far everything is working well even as temperatures in Delhi hit 113 degrees F! (Actually it should be noted that the Delhi unit was set to 35 def F (2 C) but the unit is holding steady at 37 (3 C) - it just can't get any colder). I think it's because the cooler is in direct Indian sun (no shade!) and there are some 3 tons of stored product in there. The A/C unit is sized "just right" to our specs (which didn't take India into account). There is also a small amount of visible daylight around the A/C unit. ...I'm still calling this a success. FEB 2010 - THANK YOU to a large multinational corporation for funding demonstration Coolers for poor farmers in India and Thailand using CoolBots! The first of five coolers they've built is BEAUTIFUL and now housing 3 tonnes of Potatoes! More to follow with pics in the next few weeks! This is a terrific use of CoolBots and we're so happy to be a part of the project! JAN 2010 - We are so proud to have been included in a new USAID project funding demonstrations of CoolBots for small farmers in India, Uganda and Honduras! The project will use CoolBots operating coolers built out of local materials and will explore the use of solar panels. We look forward to supporting this project any way we can and will provide regular updates and pictures once the project actually starts up!!
September 2006-2009 - We started the CoolBot company in 2006, but the fiddling on this started years before that. By 2007 we had significant commercial sales and were already getting some good attention from University and State programs that gave us the credibility we needed for small farmers to start trusting us with their produce. 2008 and 2009 saw incredible growth here in the US and by 2009 we finally had the time to start looking internationally to the difference we could make selling to developing countries. In Africa and India fresh produce losses are up past 40% even though the farmers pick and ship to local markets as quickly as they can. With no post-harvest care and hot sunny conditions, produce spoilage was just a given. There is no new seed or fertilizer or chemical pesticide out there that can increase yields by 40% but the CoolBot can -- just by keeping the farmers' hard work from going to waste. CoolBots based solutions cost 1/10th (!!) the cost of conventional cold storage solutions in developing countries and consume a fraction of the electricity making them affordable and practical solutions for small farmers in those areas.