Including appropriate technologies at ECHO enhances the impact of our educational ministry. CoolBot, a device that can turn any air conditioned space into a walk in cooler, is a method of refrigeration on the list of sustainable resources and appropriate technologies implemented in ECHO’s global work. CoolBot works by connecting to an AC unit and directing the unit to continue running without freezing over, dropping the temperature into the 30s. Small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, the affordable device is a possible solution for benefitting farmers globally. To function optimally, CoolBot must be installed in a well insulated room; this includes all walls, ceilings, floors, and doors. Fairly easy to install and run, CoolBot’s website walks users through the step-by-step installation process. The innovative device is used at ECHO Florida as a demonstration of appropriate technology (AT) and at ECHO Asia Seed Bank as a practical solution to their cooling needs.
ECHO discovered CoolBot in 2010 through the USAID Horticulture Innovation Lab, as the team researched options to protect their seeds against issues caused by warm weather and humidity. Implementing the device in seed storage spaces can help preserve seeds by providing a cool and dehumidified environment. This is put into practice at the ECHO Asia Seed Bank where they are using a combination of vacuum sealing and a CoolBot chilled environment to protect their stock. Caring for the life of seeds is extremely vital, as seeds are directly tied to ECHO’s mission of supporting global farmers. Because seeds create life, their viability must be protected to positively impact the lives of those supported by ECHO.
Seed bank manager, Holly Sobetski, uses CoolBot technology in the demonstration area of the seed bank as an example of appropriate technology. By insulating a shipping container, Sobetski uses the device to combat Florida’s tropical heat and demonstrate a real-world application for the device. The demonstration seed bank is used throughout the year for trainings, and as an overflow chiller for research projects.
Alternatives often used by those without access to a cooling system or electricity are storing seeds in airtight environments, away from direct sunlight. These methods aid in fighting humidity, but do not offer the compound benefit of controlled vacuum sealing and cool temperatures as CoolBot technology. CoolBot has been an asset to ECHO regional centers, along with many farmers and seed bank communities.
“I think CoolBot is brilliant and has been useful to ECHO,” Sobetski said. “It’s unique how with just an insulated room and an air conditioner, CoolBot can create a refrigerator.”
Farm Manager, Andy Cotarelo, uses CoolBot to store produce. Installing CoolBot in a mobile trailer, Cotarelo keeps fruits and vegetables inside the movable refrigerator year-round. Utilizing CoolBot in a mobile space allows for a smooth process of transporting products. ECHO can use the trailer when ripening produce and donating to organizations like Cultivate Abundance, a local feeding program for farm workers in Immokalee. Global farmers can benefit from creating similar mobile refrigeration systems with CoolBot, as the vehicle allows for increased opportunities in bringing products to market and preventing loss.
CoolBot’s economical product adds value to the methods of farming and gardening at ECHO and
creates a refrigeration solution that is efficient and effective. Providing global farmers with more
resources and opportunities to improve their livelihoods and business, resources like these are an
asset for ECHO’s global work. Using devices like CoolBot, ECHO is spreading the mission of Christ
through helping families and communities help themselves.