Small Farming Technology: CoolBot

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Farming on a small-scale often invites innovation. With a herd hovering around 30 heifers and a 3 acre growing area, Stonewall Farm most definitely constitutes a small venture. Yet, we take pride in this classification and believe that our intimate size puts us in a position to be an effective resource for people  just starting out, or to those who are interested in investing in a small model business. Today, I am going to talk about one of the simplest technologies around for small scale cold storage. Any farmer, of produce or dairy, will tell you that a primary challenge for their business is cold storage. Veggies quickly wilt in the heat of the summer sun and we all know that dairy products don’t stand a chance without some substantially cool temperatures. Yet too often, cold storage systems are prohibitively expensive for new business owners. Not only are they pricey to purchase (a typical walk-in storage unit costs upwards of $5000) but they also require a considerable electrical input to keep them operating.

Enter CoolBot technology. A CoolBot allows for a  cool a storage unit to run off a traditional air conditioner unit. Normally, air conditioners are unable to go below 60 degrees before freezing up. However, CoolBot technology employs a micro-controller that, as the CoolBot website explains, “interfaces with your air conditioner – controlling and co-ordinating its output so that you can access nearly all your cooling power, even as you keep temperatures in your walk-in cooler in the 30’s without re-wiring and without any freeze-ups.”

Here is a photograph of the CoolBot micro-controller:

coolbot

As hooked up to our air conditioner:

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CoolBots retail for around $315.00. This price does not include the price of an air conditioner, or of the actual storage unit, but even with these added items, CoolBots are substantially cheaper than the average cost of a  typical walk-in. We have been utilizing CoolBot technology since last June and store our cheese, yogurt, and seasonal produce in our outdoor storage unit.

Below are the plans for our insulated storage unit which was built by Panel Pros, based out of Keene. Our unit, measuring 6x8x6 cost $1500.00 to build (not including a door) and required an additional $1,500 for the door, dairy grade storage interior (which must be constructed with a material that can be easily washed out), air conditioner, and CoolBot micro-controller. Our cold storage unit cost us a total of $3000 while a typical walk-in cooler of the same dimensions can run from $8000 to $10,000. And an added benefit of the CoolBot is that they are easily replaced, unlike a broken walk-in.

STONEWALL_COOLER_SIP Plans

Overall we have only good things to say about our cold storage unit. If you are interested in learning more about CoolBot technology, visit the CoolBot website, or stop by the farm and have a look at ours.

-Sarah

To watch a YouTube video from Ron Khosla on CoolBot installation, check out this video we found online:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTR6yfep8dM&feature=youtu.be

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