A Low-Cost, Portable Forced-Air Cooling Unit

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There is growing interest in the commercial production of high-value specialty fruit such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Much of the small fruit grown in North Carolina is currently marketed through pick-your-own establishments or roadside stands. A strong demand for these small fruit items from grocery stores and restaurants has prompted many growers to consider expanding their production to take advantage of these new marketing opportunities.

These commodities, however, are extremely perishable and normally require immediate postharvest cooling before shipping to prevent degradation. Expansion into the commercial small fruit market would usually require a considerable investment in postharvest cooling and handling facilities, and possibly refrigerated transport. The risks associated with a new venture and the considerable cost involved prevent many growers from taking full advantage of this marketing opportunity. Small portable cooling units designed to "plug in" to small, insulated shipping containers have been used by the world's airlines and ocean freight carriers on a limited basis for more than 30 years. These units typically have been utilized for mainte- nance cooling of precooled, highly perishable produce during transit or during extended stop- overs or delays. This publication gives instruction for building and using a similar, inexpensive cooling system. The Cool and Ship system provides rapid cooling for modest amounts of small fruit and is versatile, portable, reusable, and inexpensive. The system uses an air-conditioning system and com- mon building materials, and may be easily assembled by the user.

M. D. Boyette
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service