[Market-farming] limitations of AC coolers

Paul Bucciaglia pbucciaglia at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 16 13:12:58 EST 2007

  I don't mean to be a wet rag (no pun intended), but I found Air conditioned coolers to be limited in their usefulness.
  They are fine for crops that are best stored between 55F and 65F.  I have a cooler made from panels ripped from a liquor store--we cut a hole in the back, mounted an old window AC, and wa-laa you have a good cooler for crops that like it cool and dry:  tomatos, melons, and eggplant.  We also store unwashed spuds (short term) in there.
  However, this is not a good cooler for greens, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, etc.  I find these crops store best from 34 to 38F, and trying get a large mass of warm (even if they are hydrocooled), wet produce down to these temps, and held there, is a tall order for an AC.  And I'm not even metnioning the ice-up problems, even though others have found ways to defrost their frozen-up ACs.  Actually, that fact alone should be a warning buzzer about this whole idea!
  You can find very reasonable coolers from restarants or grocery stores that are selling out.  A few years ago we put up a 12X18' cooler on the concrete floor in our barn.  The used panels and condenser cost $1000 pulled from a local grocery store (with about 60 ft. of nice roller track thrown in), and a new compressor plus professional wiring ran about 3 grand as I recall.  I should count labor when putting it up, so it was all under 5 grand.  When you consider that this should last (at least!) 10 years, that means refrigertation capital/maintenance costs for my crops run less than $550  a year, which is less than 0.5% of my annual gross income from produce sales.   Lots of bang for the buck there, IMOP. 
  Because good post harvest handling is so crucial to quality produce, I consider this cooler an essential investment at a very small annual cost.  
  Fort Hill Farm

Paul Bucciaglia
Fort Hill Farm
Organic Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers
18 Fort Hill Rd.
New Milford CT 06776
(860) 350-3158
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