For about $3,400, you can construct a mobile cooling unit you can take to the field to help boost postharvest quality and food safety.
Penelope Perkins-Veazie, a North Carolina State University professor and postharvest physiologist in Kannapolis, led the effort to develop the mobile refrigeration unit, dubbed "Pack 'N Cool," according to a news release.
Louis Wojciechowski, a lab technician with the research team, headed construction of the unit.
It included purchase of a new cargo trailer for $1,500. If you buy a used one, the cost will be less than the $3,400 total.
Perkins-Veazie recommends that many fruits and vegetables be stored at 32 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit after harvest.
These include apples, blackberries, strawberries, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers and green beans.
But that's not always possible during harvest, where stacks of the harvested produce sit in the field waiting for transport to cold storage.
By keeping fresh-picked fruits and vegetables cooler for longer periods, you can preserve quality and extend shelf life.
The portable unit uses CoolBot temperature technology.
A CoolBot adapter interfaces with the air conditioning unit, which typically bottoms out at 60F, to drop temperatures as low as the 30s in the trailer.
If the unit fails, a new one can be purchased at a home improvement store for about $300 and hooked up the same day.
A 110-volt electrical extension cord or a generator powers the unit.
For complete design instructions, visit the Plants for Human Health Institute website.