North Carolina university researchers are helping smaller growers maintain shelf life and product quality by developing a mobile refrigeration unit.

North Carolina researchers create mobile cooling unitN.C. State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute developed a “Pack ‘N Cool” refrigerated trailer designed to preserve fruits and vegetables during transport to farmers markets and during harvesting.

Designed to provide cost-efficient cooling, the 5-by-8-foot refrigerated trailer is the program’s latest postharvest quality and food safety project geared toward helping growers, according to a news release.

Researchers designed the mobile refrigeration unit for growers to use as a model for building their own versions.

The unit combines the mobility of a cargo trailer with the refrigeration capabilities of a commercial cooler, according to the release.

Each unit costs about $3,400 to make.

The Pack ‘N Cool uses CoolBot temperature technology to improve a basic window air conditioner unit’s output, according to the release.

The CoolBot adapter improves an air conditioning unit’s output to drop temperatures as low as 30 degrees, compared to the unit’s typical 60-degree capacity, according to the release.

“Farmers know that it’s important to keep certain fruits and vegetables at cool temperatures to remove field heat and hold fresh-grown quality, but it’s often challenging to purchase or maintain the equipment needed to ensure those ideal temps,” Penelope Perkins-Vizier, a N.C. State professor and postharvest physiologist, said in the release. “The Pack ‘N Cool model provides farmers with a mobile, cost-efficient alternative to commercial cooling units.”

The university also plans to use the unit as a training tool for faculty and North Carolina Cooperative extension agents.