What advice do you have for designing a vegetable cooler utilizing an insulated truck and a CoolBot system?
Answer: There are several important issues with designing and using a small cooler like the one you describe. First is the shelving, which should not be constructed of wood or fiber materials such as plywood or other compressed-wood products. The best shelving would be metal with an epoxy coating. This type of shelving may seem expensive but will likely be required under the new Food Safety Modernization Act that will begin implementation sometime next year.Regarding the design of your cooler, you want to make sure that no containers are stored on the ground. You should always keep the accumulation of water spots to a minimum, but it is easy for standing water to develop in produce coolers and you want to keep all stored produce out of that water at all times.In order to maximize the amount of product you can store in the cooler, avoid having the bottom shelf too high off the ground or you will limit the amount of containers you can stack. A cooler that is 8’x12’x8′ will have a maximum of 768 cubic feet of storage. You probably will have a 3-foot door and you will need to leave a 4-foot hallway into the cooler, leaving only 672 cubic feet of storage. If the bottom shelf is one foot off the ground, you will lose another 96 cubic feet of storage. Instead, consider raising the bottom shelf only two to three inches off the ground.You should also understand the cooling requirements of the different products you are going to harvest on your farm, and also which products should not be stored with each other. For example, onions give off odors that can easily be absorbed by fruit being stored in the same cooler. Other products such as tomatoes give off ethylene gas, which can speed up the ripening of other products and shorten their shelf life. If these considerations are properly addressed, you should be on your way to an efficient and organized produce cooler. To learn more about appropriate production practices, careful harvesting, and proper packaging, storage, and transport of fresh farm products, see the ATTRA publication Postharvest Handling of Fruits and Vegetables, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=378.