Whether you grow vegetables, produce pasture raised meats or market raw milk and farmstead cheese, one thing is for certain. You gotta keep your products cold to increase shelf-life and ensure food safety. But what’s the best way to do that, particularly when you have to transport chilled products?
In this episode we learn all about the history of Coolbots and how farmers use these clever devices to chill product, increase shelf life and maximize profits.
Enjoy the episode!
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Tim Young: [00:00:00]Whether you’re selling vegetables pasta meats or raw milk and cheese. One thing’s for sure you gotta keep your product refrigerated.
Tim Young: [00:00:23] Hey is Tim Young of smallfarmnation.com. Today you hear the story of how the CoolBot was created and how farmers use it to store and transport their perishable product.
Tim Young: [00:00:40] Joining me today is John Bergher V.P. sales and marketing of Store it Cold. Now you may or may not have heard of Store it Cold but I bet you heard of their product which is CoolBot. John welcome to small farm nation.
John Bergher: [00:00:55] Thank you so much. An honored to be here appreciate it.
Tim Young: [00:00:57] Hey John. Let’s start high level we’re gonna go all through Coolbot and how it’s used and everything as well let’s start at the high level and drill down. What is the fundamental problem that CoolBot attempts to solve.
John Bergher: [00:01:11] Yeah great question and you know it’s kind of transformed over the years. But if you go back to when the Cuban invented it was really just affordable cold storage right and that not meaning specifically starting with the agriculture the small farmer the homesteader you know sustainable living was just getting affordable cold storage.
John Bergher: [00:01:29] So initially the great and wise gentleman named Ron Khosla had just was tinkering around and said God I can’t afford even I used traditional walk in cooler and I can’t have all these vegetables that I’m breaking my back. Pulling out of the ground gone bad on me I’ve got to find a way to preserve them. And he really just through ingenuity and necessity being the mother of invention came up with the cool button and an air conditioner and gosh you know sixty thousand units later here we are with all kinds of great stuff happening. And finally in answering that question of how do I keep things from going bad without by my bank account going bad.
Tim Young: [00:02:04] Right right. And. Ron was well he was farming I guess it sounds like so what kind of fund did he have and what was his background.
John Bergher: [00:02:12] Yeah. Ron Ron was operating on a Community Supported Agriculture farm in upstate New York. And his background had always been in engineering and tinkering and just really enjoyed just the outdoors and trying to find ways to do things more efficiently.
John Bergher: [00:02:28] And he was on his farm in upstate New York and again ran into this problem and said gosh I can’t do this and call the buddy from Cornell University who is an engineer and a few weeks later the CoolBot was born out of tinkering with an air conditioner and saying hey the power is in this thing to keep things a little bit colder we’ve just got to find a smarter way to do it.
John Bergher: [00:02:47] So after that Ron you know hours and hours in the garages he would say and finally the CoolBot was born and he his background of being a tinker and a farmer kind of came into this juxtaposition of inventing the CoolBot. And there he was. And after that a few friends wanted it you know and then a few more friends wanted it and then somebody said hey if you can keep your vegetables cool you can keep your beer cold and your flowers cold. And before he knew it he had a business.
Tim Young: [00:03:15] And so Ron was a farmer was a market gardener or farming vegetables.
John Bergher: [00:03:19] Yes small farm. Yeah. Just a community supported agriculture was what you would call a small farm you know just several acres and taking it to local markets you know within 10 to 15 miles kind of that first phase of the farm to table movement sustainable living and just trying to make a go at it. Everything from squash to Greens and just doing it himself and its small business which he thought was just going to be more of a you know a lifestyle choice and and backed right into it to having a product that everybody wanted a piece of.
Tim Young: [00:03:48] So you know I think most of my listeners are familiar with CoolBot or at least I’ve heard about it but Let’s talk for a second to the people out there who have never heard of CoolBot you know in this what I describe in layman’s terms is what it does is it basically tricks an air conditioner that hey it’s not really as cold as you think it is so keep running until it hits a certain temperature but maybe you can describe it better or maybe that’s right but how would you describe to let’s say my mother what a Coolbot actually does.
John Bergher: [00:04:15] I love your line about not knowing what a CoolBot is because that was about my first job interview right. What the heck. I can. You know it was like This is impossible you know and I think the first reaction is No listen I’ve been in a hotel room I’ve seen a window air conditioner that go down to 60 it doesn’t work and that really prompts the explanation of how it does which is quite simple.
John Bergher: [00:04:36] And Ron to his genius figured out that the limitation of an air conditioner going colder than 60 was that air conditioner itself it would start to freeze up. So what the cool about does is it literally as you stated tricks the air conditioner into thinking it’s warmer than it is. So it will blow colder and colder air and on the other end of that it overrides the air conditioner freezing up through a fence sensor so it kind of alternates back and forth between blowing colder increments of air and then backing off when it starts to sense that since that frost or any kind of trouble with the air conditioner so comparable to like an alternating current or playing week we call it we refer to it as the cold air tennis where the ball is going back and forth. The CoolBot tricks the air conditioner gets to shoot shorter blasts of colder air and then backing off when it hears any or feels any kind of freezing or any kind of frost on the sensors as the air conditioner. So the air conditioner. Believe it or not. Once you eliminate that limitation and blow down into the low 30s which it does with the CoolBot the amazing thing is there is no hard wiring. I mean I’m not a bright guy and I’ve looked up hundreds of so it’s actually quite easy but in essence you’re right it just tricks the air conditioner and keeps it from doing what it’s you know it’s inherent flaw was which is developing frost and before you know it if you’ve got insulation and a cool button an air conditioner you can you can have it pretty darn chilly in a room of your choice.
Tim Young: [00:05:55] So when Ron was back market gardening and he was growing vegetables and he’s looking for a way of post harvest to cool the vegetables and to keep them and he and he came across this method. Did he then just get some traditional walk in cooler that didn’t have a compressor and put an air conditioner in there or did he build a room or how did that part get down to the actual facility itself.
John Bergher: [00:06:17] Yeah initially I think what he did was found some just some refurbished insulation which you can find as long as it’s not hazardous or you know doesn’t have its best dust or something. And I think he lined a room and he just kind of an existing structure is just as great.
John Bergher: [00:06:35] And he put the insulation up and got the right size air conditioner got the cool body he had one going and then I think a few weeks later he did come across a used cooler Amano construction cooler where the compressor had gotten bad and at that point they’re available for pennies on the dollar it was just kind of a big structure you know an eight by eight room that had existing insulation and he said hey I’m going to cut a hole in the side and try this thing with a CoolBot and then he’s Wow that’s even easier because the insulation on those things is usually good forever. So he had two or three prototypes going right away one was one that he had insulated an existing room. The second was where he had found the structure like you said where the compressor is bad. Got it for next to nothing and retrofitted to the Coubertin an air conditioner and got them both fired up when then he thought he was he was big king right. We started tried twice the inventory and delivering twice as much could grow twice as much not to worry about post harvest loss.
Tim Young: [00:07:25] Mm hmm. So let’s let’s kind of fast forward to where you guys are today because you mentioned that you’ve got like 60 thousand installations out there. I mean it’s really a remarkable story. I think you guys were founded like in 2000 six or something so that’s like a 13 year period where we’re are not geographically where but in terms of industries where are most of your installations are they in the market farming side or are they somewhere else or what do you what do you see most your customers come from.
John Bergher: [00:07:52] Yeah. So traditionally an agricultural company and I think that had been just pretty much a bulk of the business right. It was just the bread and butter of the company there would be an odd cooler here there used for something different. And I think the further that the company spread from Ron’s initial network which was the agricultural and farming community you know cold storage as cold storage and if you don’t need to freeze something cool that’s always a great alternative for cost advantages and just the ability to get yourself something together with much less expense and less ongoing maintenance. So what had happened God just really over the last five or six years is industries that are not at the level of agriculture but are actually growing faster floral dairy meat and hunting and meat processing. Believe it or not mortuaries is one of our fastest growing businesses. I don’t want to be a downer but again it’s you know a growing need for affordable cold storage. We’ve actually seen some government testing. So there’s all these areas where you know the cool box just kind of starting to really gain traction. You know I think in in fairness will always be an agricultural company. That’s our bones and you know the DNA the company started there and you know let’s face the United States is just a huge agricultural engine as is parts of Canada. So but 80 to 90 percent of our business is in North America and will always be that way. But when you look at year over year growth you look at the floral industry and you look at the wine and beverage industry and breweries and dairy and those things are just growing at a faster pace. I don’t know if they ever catch up in aggregate but still an agricultural company. But exciting to see every year we see a new use for the cool bod.
John Bergher: [00:09:31] And in fact overseas we’re starting to see it in areas such as vaccine preservation where the regulations aren’t as strict and that’s great because from a humanitarian perspective it’s nice to see affordable cold storage do something great beyond what it was initially designed to do and nobody is happier about that than we are. Especially Ron. So it was just a great guy and a great you know he’s just got a philanthropic nature. So you know it’s the job is changing rapidly for me but the product itself is just finding ways into new vessels. It’s been interesting certainly a fun ride and keeping us busy.
Tim Young: [00:10:06] Well I think I’m on my sixth or seventh CoolBot installation and personally that I’ve done for my farm slash or homestead one way or the other and I’ve I’ve created a large cooler for storing eggs. I’ve created multiple cheese caves and I’ve also created a mobile transport unit that she did she could use for hauling vegetables or meat to a farmer’s market or anything. I kept it at 38 degrees and I used it for transporting milk. But are you are you seeing a lot on the dairy side. I mentioned cheese caves and transporting milk and those kind of things. Are you seeing a lot of those applications.
John Bergher: [00:10:46] Absolutely. And you know one of the things about dairy that we really love is it’s kind of in that wine spectrum to where you don’t have to do as much from a construction perspective right. You obviously want to have a good structure and good insulation but quite often you don’t need to be in the low 30s. So folks who are doing those kinds of builds are really having a good time because it’s a little bit easier on on the actual engineering and putting it together. So we see a ton of dairy a ton of just the cheese enthusiasts and I’m always trying to weasel my way into some free samples. You know it’s funny it’s like a you know everyone always say hey John why are you always the first one to call the wine and the cheese you know component people always. Anyone who’s doing anything with alcohol or cheese you always call first. I’m like oh it’s just it’s by chance trust me. And I only call them at the same time.
John Bergher: [00:11:37] So and our clients are so enthusiastic right they always what if they’ve done something if something is being done on the cool but they’re always sharing we just got a case of sauerkraut at the office the other day which everybody was happy about and certainly not a problem but definitely to the dairy component we’re seeing larger and more refined and more specific uses where folks are using that cool bod because you know that people say dairy they don’t realize what a complex multi level how many products how many different types of cheeses there are out there and on the egg side as well those farms really need to have that affordable cold storage where they can be in and out quickly so we’re it’s one of our fastest growing industries. I would say it’s in the top three between floral and cheese or kind of neck and neck for who’s going to have bigger growth year over year but it is affordable and like I said cheese and wine because you can be in the 40s and 50s and put it together pretty quickly and the cool on the AC and you can really do quite a bit fairly quickly so it’s been it’s been interesting and certainly I would say you know by 2020 we see that as one of our top two or three overall not just in growth.
Tim Young: [00:12:42] So we’ll come back to applications in a second but I want to touch on something that you just said you made the comment that your clients are so enthusiastic and I think I’ve observed that as well as it relates to CoolBots people really become champions of that. And of course I mean since I’ve had seven like I said installations with you guys I’ve had a lot of experience with your service which is outstanding. So what I’m wondering is from a marketing point of view and from a I guess a marketing strategy point of view John or a business strategy what do you guys do for your customers to facilitate them becoming cheerleaders or to enable them becoming cheerleaders or to help them. Because I think that’s something that many many farmers could benefit from doing the same thing.
John Bergher: [00:13:25] Sure that’s a great question and it’s actually the reason I actually took the job believe it or not and not like I had a ton of opportunities believe me but was just so completely enamored with the customer base being more the raving fan than the actual consumer because it’s when cool about started I think these that you know it was kind of like the Little Engine That Could it was the small farmers the small dairy producers people that couldn’t afford these larger kind of traditional components.
John Bergher: [00:13:54] So when they find something that’s like Oh my God it’s not a seen on TV this really works. I think the level of enthusiasm from social media the stories we hear that pour out it just really draws everyone to you know that world class service and real world time is kind of something we talk about a lot and we’ll ask our customers just to talk about us our social media presence is huge. We’re still a small company. We don’t do a ton of like overt advertising. We you know we try to be present but we really like to make our customer case face forward to other customers and people like yourself saying I’ve had seven CoolBots and you know I’ve had a great luck or you know the occasional traditional back guy who says that thing’s not going to work and I’m plugging it in and says oh my gosh this really works. You know for customers who can’t afford to fix their traditional coolers or their systems I’ve plugged them in and they become raving fans and I think that’s been our key to success. Now it does you know or not Coca-Cola. We’d love to be and have a a billion dollar marketing budget. But I think the company was founded on that service and I don’t think that that that composition of service affordability and just using our customers to find our new customers and make them happy and then there’s this wealth of knowledge that comes along with that because as you know Tim if you’ve built 7 I don’t think there were any two that were even close to the same everyone had its own inherent uniqueness and every cool about build becomes a case study so we try to build that library and make sure that no matter who calls we have somebody or something that can help them and in a specific case that’s pertinent to what they’re doing.
[00:15:24] You know sometimes it’s dairy and you know just last year we had a couple of folks believe it or not who have M.S. which is the debilitating disease and horrible and a one of the one of the horrible byproducts of that disease is that you have a real hard time sleeping unless you can stay cool and we had a few people who had read customer review said Hey I got this thing called the CoolBot and I put it in my room and an air conditioner and I’m sleeping great and this is just such a relief and we were like oh gosh we had never never seen something like that coming right. But from a customer perspective and just finding a new use and having someone tell the story I think that does a lot in the way of just marketing and sharing our enthusiasm and finding new customers and more importantly keeping our our our existing customers happy.
Tim Young: [00:16:08] Yeah I know you mentioned a few times that you know the way this whole company started was Ron was looking for you know I can’t afford a walk in cooler How do I get this done more cheaply and a lot of people mentioned cost you know when I started with a cool bod cost was an issue for sure but it wasn’t the acquisition costs for me John that was the issue. I mean you know because you could buy you know you could find use walk-in coolers. My problem was as a farm I was located at least an hour and 15 minutes away from any kind of person who could repair compressor on a walk in cooler. And so you know I don’t know why it happens this way but invariably it happens where it goes down on a weekend or you know my walk in cooler goes down on a holiday or July 4th of course or whatever. I’ve to pay a fortune to get the people out there and I and I came to the conclusion said by a cool board put an inexpensive air conditioner in there to keep your eggs cool in worst case scenario you’re in you’re in a bad situation and thing goes down you can’t get a repair you know run down the street by another air conditioner and you’re back in business.
John Bergher: [00:17:18] Great point and you know being the sales guy that’s certainly something that comes up quite often. You know I often look at the customer size of their air conditioner and you know believe it or not for whatever reason I can tell you the average customer builds a cooler that’s usually in the eight by eight range right.
John Bergher: [00:17:34] It’s eight foot by eight foot by eight foot tall that’s a fifteen thousand B2 unit that we would recommend in most cases with the right insulation and not to get too technical but you know that unit depending on where you buy it and there’s many air conditioners that are compatible we go out of our way to test and find air conditioners at our work. We recommend LG but there’s dozens that will work. So you know just in that price range that air conditioner can be anywhere from four to six hundred dollars and what I hear from customers all the time is I just had to have a technician out. I waited three days so my inventory was bad at the time and I spent four or five hundred dollars on the repair bill you know and it’s like well you’re either back and forth to home depot and up and running in a couple hours or you wait on the technician and I don’t know why that is. We see that a lot especially in small businesses who are calling us. It’s you know it is it is certainly a benefit. I don’t think that was part of the initial strategy but it does help and it’s an advantage of the cool box system is what they call TTR more time to repair and the cold storage industry is it’s not comparing strictly cost to replace or repair it’s how long are you waiting and what inventory loss there is in the meantime. Because even if it’s the same you know you’re trading a bill for a brand new air conditioner which you could put in yourself you know it’s what goes bad and what’s that inventory worth and the peace of mind that I’m like you it’s something inherently goes bad on the Saturday or the day I’m getting ready to leave for vacation something breaks at the house. I don’t know why that is. My wife thinks it’s funny. I don’t know why but it’s just the way it is. So she’s all she’d like to see you suffer John. She yes she’s like How fast can you fix it toilet. You know it’s like it’s like that the stopwatch.
John Bergher: [00:19:05] I can hear it in the background but no inevitably that is part of the case and you know we certainly don’t consider ourselves a replacement for traditional cold storage or as part of the cold chain and and work with a lot of folks on the traditional side. But you know if that’s a concern and you are running a small business it’s cost is an issue but being down is crippling. I mean it literally stops in your tracks right. So a good point and thanks for mentioning that we often fail to mention that ourselves but it is an advantage and something that we try to be a salable on weekends for support as well. Especially because folks are running back and forth and getting parts and what do I do and I need to have this up and running and we have emergency on call knows just for those kinds of situations.
Tim Young: [00:19:46] By the way if when your spouse ask you how fast can you fix the toilet. The right answer is how fast can you fix the toilet.
John Bergher: [00:19:53] I’ll I’ll try that. And then the spare room is ready at your house for me right.
Tim Young: [00:20:42] You mentioned insulation for a second ago so let’s talk about construction whether it’s a fixed. Well I guess mostly mostly applications will be fixed facilities versus mobile facilities but either way you’ve got to have the structure built in the right installation so I’m wondering what kind of tips you have for people who are interested in setting up their own walk in cooler with a cool board.
John Bergher: [00:21:09] Yeah. Great question and there’s so much information on our Web site. You know w w w that store at coal dot com and we’ve actually made that even much better over the last year or so even someone like myself could put a cooler together but you know most people think it’s about having the engine and it really starts with insulation. Right. It’s really the most important component everyone says the cool board air conditioner and like as easy. I’m hooked him up in five minutes. It’s not a problem. You need to make sure that the structure is solvent whether it’s a trailer and we’ve done mobile applications as well or a room. But if you’re starting with that sample eight by eight room you want to make sure that is the ceiling insulated as the floor insulated and then answering yourself. How cold do I want it to be. And we always tell folks look if you’re are twenty five which is you know the insulation value of a pretty solvent thermodynamic barrier if you’re twenty five or better you’re going to be in great shape if you start with that your cooler will be efficient it’ll help you size the air conditioner properly and the cool about well you know energy efficiently operate that room no matter what temperature you want to be so I always say start with the insulation and go from there and there’s things to avoid any cooler you want to avoid moisture so stay away from the bad fiberglass insulation use rigid board or even a spray foam something that’s moisture resistant you can put a barrier over that but start with insulation and know how big your room is and don’t forget the floor and don’t forget the ceiling. If you do all that you really can’t go wrong from there. Everything else is the sizing the air conditioner from there and it’s pretty that’s the fun part of the job is just making sure you’re insulated.
Tim Young: [00:22:41] Yeah except for when you’re building a cheese cave is the opposite you want moisture you need 90 percent humidity.
John Bergher: [00:22:47] Yes exactly. But you want it within the structure and not coming in from you know moisture to get into the insulation. Yeah but no agreed and we have a lot of that and that’s a great that’s a great segue. If I could for a minute is that we have a lot of folks who want a ton of moisture specifically dairy and people like yourselves who have certain blends of cheese and dairy products that need that moisture in which case you would there’s work arounds from our engineers adjusting fan speed or adding modifiers tropical foliage. Believe it or not we have a lot of folks will do birds of paradise and they need to keep them semicolons certain environments but also need that extra moisture so we have work arounds for that. And conversely folks who are aging meat they wanted a lot drier so we’re saying you know add a dehumidifier increase your fan speed maybe add an extra air conditioner on the other side that’s a little bit smaller and just kind of increase airflow so you know just because you’re cooling your room it doesn’t mean that the entire paddock properties of the room or the moisture or the airflow they’re all going to be the same the great news is with sixty thousand units out there chances are one of our engineers is run into it and we have a work around. So it’s a good point because you know the dairy enthusiast and the meat enthusiast are both using Culbertson air conditioners and from the interior components and environments of those coolers radically different but still being done to the cool by an air conditioner. But you have totally different needs right. Based on what you just said so I appreciate you bringing that up because that’s a that’s actually really important point is that we see varying requirements. We’ve had a few government testing coolers that they wanted it extra like right at the verge of freezing consistently to where there was ice forming and we kind of had engineer around that and it was fun and we got it done so we don’t want to do that to your cheese but we’ve done it.
Tim Young: [00:24:33] Yes speaking of cheese and you just mentioned fan speed a second ago in the context of if somebody’s got meat maybe they can increase fan speed to dry it up more but that was really one of the other reasons why I started going down the CoolBot path. I originally did one with just eggs but when I when I built my cheese caves I used to have a couple of 28 foot long cheese caves that were walk in coolers and they had on on each end of that 28 foot long cheese cave was those large compressors with those three big fans. That’s real problematic in the cheese world because that’s going to blow it’s going to move a lot of air and it dries out your cheese is one of the things I really liked about going to the CoolBot solution because I don’t need to really work the air conditioner on that much I only have to keep the temperature at about fifty four degrees so it’s not that much work on the AC and therefore it’s not blowing all the time because I have an insulated well so therefore I’m not drying out my cheeses and that was a huge selling point for me when I built that large that large cheesecave.
John Bergher: [00:25:34] Great point and you know it’s funny because we’ve seen so much of that where you know like I would say 20 percent of our calls are more around the you know the unique components of the build whether it’s dairy or like I said meat processing or even wine and you know these things have just been it’s an evolving kind of industry right. The first cool box or like kind of looked like a VCR and it was just enough to blow cold and all just through the process of evolution we found all these workarounds or shortcuts and coolers that are outside which we have a lot of great in the summer. But if you’re in North Dakota you still need to cool inside but keep everything from freezing so we had to come up with a workaround for that kind of situation.
John Bergher: [00:26:15] So there is many and you know believe it or not the two fans feed favorites are dairy and again the floral because high fans speed and too much airflow is the worse thing for four flowers in the world. It destroys the pedals even if the temperature’s right. So the same for the dairy components I appreciate you bringing that up.
Tim Young: [00:26:33] Mm hmm. So most of the applications that we’ve talked about you know produce cheese eggs meat you know flowers funeral homes and most of these are commercial businesses. I mean but there’s applications too you know on the I guess the individual side. I mean there are people that are using them to build coolers to hang deer meat or to do on farm or homestead processing. What about home brewing or that kind of thing. Are you seeing any interest in that area for your product.
John Bergher: [00:27:02] Yeah tons home brewing is become huge. And that’s a good point I appreciate that is there there’s so many just people who either in their garage or in a closet. I’ve seen cheese caves and unused closets and homebrewing in the garage just by the thousands really and even floral some folks are now you know because the retail floral business has gone away folks are moving to their garages and then just delivering. So we see a lot of that and quite frankly it’s been you know a majority of our customers I would still classify them as enthusiasts versus actual business owners although the small business is still very fast and growing.
John Bergher: [00:27:40] And I think the CoolBot has a lot of runway there. It’s still that small farmer or that homebrew enthusiast or somebody who just wants to do a cheese cave or even a wine cellar at home which in a closet with a cool bod is actually very doable you have you know you have a small space you have small air conditioner very minor insulation and it’s cold and dark and all those things working for it. So you know I still think we’re the you know more the fan and supporter of the enthusiast in the business and that’s not a resistance to you know to being commercial or growing the company rapidly. But I always see the biggest component of our of our customer base being people who are probably defined more as people who are both passionate and happy driven specifically on the home brew side. I mean there’s been some of our other partners where you can find the cool but really just kind of work in that business like a more flavor who is one of the biggest online suppliers of everything from grain and yeast to taps. You know they want to carry that CoolBot and carry that forward to their customer base as well. So I think that’s that’s a big indicator of the amount of folks who are just doing it at home or in their spare time and that’s great right. That’s great but can enable pretty much anybody to say if I want to make cheese or I want to make wine or do beer or turn my garage into a meat hanging because I can’t you know I don’t want to go to a process right away. It’s great.
Tim Young: [00:29:00] Yeah I pretty much do everything at home that you’re talking about other than the the funeral home I don’t have any plans I’m not going to I’m not going to look at that application about using a CoolBot for a wine room and I could see that making perfect sense but what about you know in the fermentation process for you know meat making or homebrewing or whatever do you see people using the cool bar to create fermentation rooms.
John Bergher: [00:29:25] Yeah actually we do quite a bit and part of the reason they do is is one the affordability and then just sometimes especially with like a lagering process or in the birthing process you really need to get super cold and they will try that in their refrigerator and it’s just not enough space. So your next step up in those kinds of those those those enthusiasms are really you just need a little bit bigger space and the CoolBot enables them to do that. So there are some things that can be done in a refrigerator like the fermentation process the logarithm process you know meat process but if you’ve ever tried working inside a refrigerator it’s a good way to bang your head and just can’t get a lot done. So when you go from this tiny little hobby and you’re looking around you go look the next step up is this huge cooler or I could build a six by six in my garage or do something to where I could actually stand up inside and walk around and we always tell folks look if you can’t stand up inside whatever you’re working in it’s it’s just not not to scale you’re not able to do it right to the level you want. So we see a lot of. We always joke about the little migration of you know the meat and the wine and the cheese walking out of the refrigerator Holloway I like a little cartoon line and getting into a closet where there’s a crowbar about an air conditioner. They’ve arrived to the next level.
Tim Young: [00:30:40] Well yeah. You know my next application for the cool about what I’m what I’m actually doing right now is a lot of people who you know embark on this homesteading self-sufficiency type type lifestyle one of the first things that they get enamored with is I want to build a root cellar. You know I want to you know dig into the side of the hill or whatever and then it becomes like this big problem to do it is very expensive. And I said Shoot I’m just going to replicate my cheesecave you know. And that’s just for a few hundred bucks and then put make that our root cellar and that’s where I’m going to store my potatoes and all my root vegetables. And it’s a great solution for that too. But I haven’t seen that marketed on your site. I don’t know if other people are doing that or not.
John Bergher: [00:31:16] We do see quite a bit and where we do see that a lot is in the Northeast where there’s basements because it’s kind of like halfway to a root cellar and it’s an easy conversion but we do see a lot of especially we’re seeing a lot of urban farming and they’re trying to I won’t say trying they are replicating that. It’s just a little bit different you’ll see folks say they have a root cellar and we get their address and it’s you know unit 26 at an address in New York City and or like what are you doing. You know and that’s just about that. They think it’s about being underground and it’s not it’s about just finding the dark you know finding that dark enclosure. Finding the right space the right the right environmental components and they’re doing that. So we are seeing that more and more and that’s kind of a derivative of the urban farming component. But at the same time we see a lot of traditional route sellers where folks are just going into either their basement or maybe there had been a shelter dug out back for believe it or not. We see a lot of like tornado shelters that are have been dug out or I’ve actually had a few folks old fallout shelters from the 50s that their parents had dug out but they’re you know they’re in close and safe and they’re using CoolBots and venting and converting them and it’s actually pretty fun and interesting talk about making use of a tough space. But we do have a few folks it’s tied one to the other day in Oklahoma City it’s in the garage it’s a sliding metal door and there’s an 8 by 8 case down room down there and they’re converting it to a root cellar and using a cool about an air conditioner and you know there’s still enough room to go down there in case of emergency. So you know talk about making good use of your space and what you have available to you. But absolutely and we we love that stuff right because it can be misleading what what made sense 30 40 years ago. It can the definitions totally changed with new technologies and new applications and enthusiasm. So we love to see that stuff.
Tim Young: [00:32:59] So you gave some good tips on construction of the the cooler the facility itself and like I said I’ve done a number of these but believe it or not John there’s a lot of people out there that just don’t want to do it themselves. I mean they like going and being able to buy something like you know a walk in cooler where it’s all done for them or whatever. So what about those people I mean do you only sell you know the CoolBot controller or do you have a solution for people who are looking for a turnkey solution.
John Bergher: [00:33:27] Josh it’s a great question and thank you. We late really 2018 rolled out a turnkey cooler solution and kind of the most common sizes based on what folks were telling us they were building and that actually it Tim it wasn’t a moneymaker it wasn’t that’s great marketing idea. I’d love to take credit for it but we did a customer survey of about 20000 people who responded and 20 percent of that 20 thousand came back and said Love CoolBot right from cheese cheesecaves to this I love it. But if I ever have to go to Home Depot again burger I’m going to kill you. So we said we’d better come up with something. And really the difference in cost from a traditional cooler that you would buy at a restaurant supplier or walk in cooler manufacturer. The difference is really the engine. Right it’s the big compressor on top. So our CEO Brian Murphy brilliant guy worked really really hard and made sure that we had the right components in place and you can actually buy now a turnkey solution in one of four or five sizes that are common. And it’s still do it yourself. It’s a Cadillac assembly so it goes together and a couple hours the differences is the brain and the muscle or the cool bod and the air conditioner are just different. So because of that it’s the same advantages of something you’d build yourself much quicker time. And it’s also that you know they’re really shiny and metal and then again you can take them apart and move them if you need to. There’s a 10 year warranty on the panels which are twenty nine roughly meaning the installation is even overkill on if we were to recommend building it yourself. So they’re flexible there’s a warranty.
John Bergher: [00:34:56] It is a little bit more expensive but the convenience factor and the ability to move those coolers and not run back and forth or lose time to the constructions quite frankly some of our customers really really enjoy that aspect. Now some of our customers are just DIY and will never change and we still love them and they’re still the majority of our business is there to work with them. But yeah the turnkey coolers the one downside is they’ve been much more popular than we thought. So it’s good from a business perspective but that’s why half the time when someone needs one they have to hear from the V.P. of sales because we’ve got so many people calling and they have to deal with me I’ve got to take my turn in the rotation but folks love them and they’ve been a huge success. And again still powered by the you know the old reliable cool button and the air conditioner.
Tim Young: [00:35:40] Yeah I could see why they’re being more popular than you might have expected it’s not that people are lazy. But when you’re talking to the agricultural community we ain’t got no time John. So if we can if we can buy something that’s already done for us I mean then that’s that’s a great selling point now. Are you turnkey coolers only for fixed applications already have mobile trailer solutions too.
John Bergher: [00:36:00] We aren’t building mobile trailers en masse but we do. We did do one a sponsored build with an author named David Draper who is very popular in the outdoorsman channel and we actually carry a manual as well as a how to video. There’s several ways to go about doing it. But again our engineers can can always be available for a phone call and sold. We’re happy to talk. Even if it’s four hours on doing it. But anybody who’s interested in building a trailer we can send you an eight to see video and a how to guide. That’s pretty encompassing and you know there’s some different levels of how to do it or do you just want to cool it while you’re stationary. Do you want to cool it while you’re driving. But again we’re we’re fluid pros and all that and happy to take that on and we are seeing a pretty big pretty big movement on the mobile side as well a lot of folks converting old horse trailers old ice cream trucks. You’d be surprised at what we see but it’s certainly very doable now.
Tim Young: [00:36:49] I was really intrigued earlier when you said that you’re seeing a lot of growth in the in the morgues and the funeral homes space. But beyond that what’s the most bizarre or the most creative use of a CoolBot that you’ve seen.
John Bergher: [00:37:02] I think you know to my point earlier is that some folks who have you know unfortunately debilitating health issues have used the CoolBot for for comfort issues and being able to rest. We’ve we’ve seen a few people have wrote in and don’t know if they’re in a Tucson or Phoenix area like they send us these pictures these there. I want to say they’re dog houses but they’re more like dog resorts they’re using CoolBots for their animals. We see a lot of folks using it for just livestock for shows keeping them cool. So I think there’s been some interesting components that way which are you know make you feel good from a human perspective but also I’ve got to you didn’t think about that and then I think you know internationally in developing economies you’ll see the Coolbots like I said that are you know outside of the U.S. regulation it’s OK to protect a vaccine and you’re talking about literally saving lives. So those kinds of stories which come in from all over the globe right. The CoolBots have been sold in 70 countries and thank you so much. You know this remote village will be receiving a back you know a vaccine or or some medicines that we’re able to be preserved based on a cool by an American version or where there’s virtually no power grid or no other cooling perspectives. It’s been extremely rewarding so I think from a you know a feel good perspective there on the other. On the other side I like I said that the dog hotels are. Great. If you know you never wanted to be a dog so bad. You know I don’t know if it was the the air conditioning system or the furniture that I saw inside this thing that made me feel like I was doing something. But certainly interesting and you know look if you need to keep it cool and you don’t need to freeze. I guarantee if we talk next week Tim there would be some new use that popped up because it’s just literally we used to get that one of those a week. I never thought of using it that way before. And it’s a fun ride. It’s always changing.
Tim Young: [00:38:56] Well I know you guys have an awesome blog too on your Web site at storecold.com but I don’t remember exactly what it was but I remember reading something last year like a curling club or something or whatever whatever the sport is that has those big hard stones on ice curling.
John Bergher: [00:39:11] Yeah we actually when we are sales and marketing manager Julia DeGennaro when she saw that she thought she was being pranked so she was writing everyone on the staff. All right who sent me this. You sent me this. Who sent me this. And it was legitimately the U.S. Curling Club who has members of the Olympic team right had just needed to keep their stones just above freezing from massive maximum effectiveness much like a hockey puck. Believe it or not they keep them at a certain temperature so they don’t bounce and have the rights aren’t thermodynamic properties to slide on the ice so they know we love this thing. Keep right at 33. So we use it here. So yeah. That was a good one too. Yeah. That was a good one to.
Tim Young: [00:39:51] Talk about a market you could not have anticipated.
John Bergher: [00:39:54] Listen if I’ve got a feeling that might be the only one we ever do but it tells a great story. So we’re happy about that.
Tim Young: [00:40:01] So I had had a guest on Nikki from the florist flower farm in Asheville a few months ago and she as cool boss but she was talking about upgrading to a Wi-Fi product or something. So what’s this cool about pro product that you have.
John Bergher: [00:40:22] Yeah. So the latest is the cool about pro and in that infamous study which we did and came up with the turnkey coolers. What also came about which actually Ron had been kicking around since 2006 he said eventually this is going to be big and I think you know much like what the cool about people kind of laughed at him and you know what what do you do that’s not on your phone right now.
John Bergher: [00:40:42] I have a son who who cooks on so all the other day he was sitting on a phone and like you know quit watching your phone son he’s like Oh no I’m adjusting my my spaghetti. He literally has a pot that’s Wi-Fi interactive so you know that’s really where things are. Now everything’s an app. If you have access. We picked up on that a couple of years ago and our customers said I’d love to have a Wi-Fi CoolBot. I might want to travel I can always be on the farm I might be in Spain and I want to adjust the temperature in my wine cooler or maybe I just want to know if the power has gone out so hence came about the cool about pro and again our CEO Brian Murphy who’s an engineer by trade just drove in and developed an amazing app and it’s everything that CoolBot has. It just has the ability to communicate Wi-Fi so you could be in Spain and get an alert on your cooler being off temperature or a power outage. You can adjust the temperature remotely from the web app or the phone app which is amazing so and you can even get a little bit of history on temperature someone like yourself you want to stay at 55 you could look back over the last few weeks and say I’m old and write a fifty five or I noticed during the day it jumps up a degree I may want to do something with that.
John Bergher: [00:41:51] So it’s been out really in full force since I would say the beginning of this year we did rule it out limited release last year kind of a slow roll and part of that was just to get customer feedback and make some adjustments to the application and features but also to make sure the QC was there and it’s it’s actually just this last few months is exceeding 60 65 percent of our sales and at some point it’s probably going to be closer to a clear majority of our customers as you know the interactive community just grows everything I mean like who doesn’t have a phone now and we have folks even in Europe or even developing countries that are using them. So if you can get a signal it makes you just makes your cooling I think that much more efficient.
John Bergher: [00:42:31] You know we have customers log on say oh I don’t have any floral inventory this week so I’m going to raise the cooler up to fifty five and save energy and then the day before the inventory comes in. They can get on their phone and drop it down to their forty five or thirty eight or whatever so it’s making it interactive and more intelligent. So the advantages of your cool about which are efficiency and energy efficiency and just convenience are gone to a different level because now you don’t have to be there you don’t have to be walking into the cooler which is great. So it’s just been awesome and folks love the app and it’s free. The app is free. Initially we were going to charge for it and you know we just decided Look that’s just not who we are. I mean we’ve always been the company that put customers first and the CoolBot or COBOL pro is a little bit more from a retail perspective. But if you don’t have Wi-Fi now you might down the road and robots are pretty easy to install you may move it and something may happen.
Tim Young: [00:43:25] So it really sounds like a great upgrade but what about the 60 thousand people who have already bought CoolBots. Do you have any kind of incentive for them to upgrade.
John Bergher: [00:43:35] Yeah actually we for our existing customers who have the Gen 6 or even earlier we’re doing an upgrade program we will We’ll get you your CoolBot pro and take one hundred dollars off if you send us the old one and we’ll even let you keep your sensors which are universal and we did that purposely as opposed to redesigning your senses or sensors and sensor temperature sensor heat sensor so you keep some extra parts on you for down the road and it’s been a very well received program so far everyone’s been excited about that and you know weather is just warming up.
John Bergher: [00:44:04] So we’re seeing that traffic pick up. You know we tend to get really busy around may believe it or not in the rest of the urban farmers and the agricultural community come alive and everyone’s been happy about that. And again that was something that we wanted to do to make it appealing for customers to stay up with the latest and if not we’ll continue to support your existing Cool Robot. But if you want to step up you also get a two year warranty on the CoolBot pro so we’re happy to do that as well. So there’s a you know keep your sensors get the latest and the greatest and they’ll take your warranty out of fears that sounds like a good deal if I could get that with my car I might take that back in there.
Tim Young: [00:44:40] So where are you guys doing all this. Where are you located. You in one place are you in multiple facilities.
John Bergher: [00:44:45] Yes. So our customer are our customer team and the company headquarters is still in Denver. And you know we can facilitate shipping either from there or you know from a couple locations the walk in cooler business because it’s become such a big component of what we do day to day and it’s growing rapidly we have two facilities that manufacturer and they’re basically bi coastal and the reason for that is you know you’re shipping something that weighs two thousand pounds.
John Bergher: [00:45:09] It can be cost prohibitive to ship from Florida to California. So Vice versa we have those two facilities one in California and one on the on the Florida coast there. So we can pretty much get you a turnkey solution anywhere in the country and again we’re we’re still headquartered in Denver that’s the brain and the hub and when you call to here talk to somebody on customer service that’s who you’re gonna talk to and if you need anything special that’s where all the it’s where all the great ideas come from too. That’s where Brian’s located. So our CEO.
Tim Young: [00:45:37] So speaking of great ideas have you guys thought about changing your name from store cold to CoolBot or do you actually have some other product ideas beyond CoolBot coming.
John Bergher: [00:45:44] No no I think storage cold at the time was more about the need and I think we’re we are slowly if not surely using the name cool about more. I mean we know the company itself is kind of you know it’s really evolved from what was a lifestyle business for Ron who’s still on the board and involved day to day and brings a lot to the table to you know religion element business and obviously with a great social awareness but a business nonetheless. So I think the cool bought cool up pro names are becoming more and more prevalent and eventually you know cool about pro will be the flagship product and we’ll still support everything that our customers have and eventually I would if I was a betting guy.
John Bergher: [00:46:25] I think eventually that store cold becomes a little less of the of the tag line and a little more of the you know cool bought by store at cold or something of that nature.
Tim Young: [00:46:35] Yeah yeah. Nobody says store it cold we all say Coolbot.
John Bergher: [00:46:38] In fact I’m starting to introduce myself as cool but you know just the way it is.
Tim Young: [00:46:42] Oh you’re a Coolbot. OK. So yeah or to where do we keep up with you John at a cool body.
John Bergher: [00:46:48] Yeah. So our Web site which is just storeitcold.com has everything you’ll need right. There’s a huge library of build support. There’s a tab where every use that we’ve talked about today you can look at other enthusiasts doing brewing or dairy or or cheese or floral or wine or even the mortuaries meat hunting and meat processing and you can see other people. Social media is a great aspect but our Web site is just a plethora of information and case studies and sometimes folks don’t know what they want to do and they’re asking these questions or saying hey you want to do homebrew go check out the brew tab here’s the link and then come back and say OK I saw it I know what I want. So once they go from there they can go to the bill tab and find everything they want and they again they can always just call us you know our customer Caroline and it’s 8 8 8 8 7 1 5 7 2 3 in the most eager and engineering friendly people in the world will be happy to talk to you and answer any questions you have as well. So from a support perspective that’s the place to go. And then again you know small nation dot com backside Coolbot right. I mean I think there’s a special offer exclusive tier to your network and your customers. So we’d love for them to go there but we’re always available to support. And that’s on the phone or online. There’s tons of material out there and they can always email me if they want. Just John@storeitcold.com. I’d be happy to to help anybody who’s working with you.
Tim Young: [00:48:10] Yeah. And we appreciate that offer. Yeah you’re right. So smallfarmnation.com/Coolbot there’s a twenty dollar off discount if anybody wants that and you know I’m one of your 60000 big fans John I don’t know how you guys doing create the evangelist out there but I think the reason the way you do it is because it just works. You know the irony is it’s like I used to have these big you know typical walk in coolers and they would just break. I mean you know not. I had I had used products too so that’s part of it. But ever since I’ve gone cool about this my whole justification goes well when it breaks I’ll just go get another air conditioner but they’ve never but nothing’s ever broken.
John Bergher: [00:48:47] believe it or not. You know we you know we can’t publish it but we’ve done a few in-house studies and the air conditioners that we’ve tested last a little bit longer with the Coolbot. And I think the analogy from our CEOs and engineer and our lead engineer Freddy as well as various universities is you know just consider is it harder to run a marathon or is it easier to run a mile and then rest and then run a mile and then rest. And because the compressor time is limited with a cool bod although the fans running on the air conditioner the compressor that generates the cold air only operates in increments under the cool board. It’s only turned on when needed where if you have an air conditioner set at 60 the compressor is constantly running. So a cool box set at thirty five in an eight by eight room with our twenty insulation or better probably the compressor runs 15 minutes an hour versus the full 60 to be at a higher temperature so that’s it wasn’t something that was inherently part of Ron’s design but it is a nice byproduct to a longer the life of the cool. And the problem with Coolbots for us from a business perspective is they don’t break. That’s why we have to do rebates because there’s there’s a generation one Coolbots out there that literally look like a VCR and folks are like now. It’s never gone bad I may replace the heat sensor five years ago but there’s no I don’t have Wi-Fi and no need to upgrade and we’re happy to support that as well.
Tim Young: [00:50:09] To answer your question I mean it may be easier to run a mile than take a break versus running a marathon but the right answer is it’s easier to sit in a chair and drink beer and cheese and watch somebody run which is what I do John.
John Bergher: [00:50:21] Listen I only run when I’m chased. That’s my motto. Here comes a bear. Exactly. Exactly.
Tim Young: [00:50:27] John this has been great. I mean you guys are doing great stuff and I’m excited to see what happens for you guys. Clearly you know internationally because they know you get some growth going on there. But we’re thrilled that you took the time to be on the show with us so thanks so much for everything you’re doing for small farm nation.
John Bergher: [00:50:43] Oh no thank you so much and again everyone go to a smallfarmnation.com/Coolbot and check it out and any questions feel free to reach out to us and if you’re not sure if the cool boss the right fit for you. Feel free to give us a call we actually have a list of reasons when it’s when it’s not to use a Coolbot but let’s figure it out together and we’re happy to be a resource on any cold storage project you have. I know we’ve talked about a lot of things today but I know somebody who’s listening has an idea and they’re thinking maybe the Coolbot would work and yes or no we’d love to talk to you about it. We may we may be on to some we love this stuff I’m passionate. Thank you Tim. Thank you so much John. All right.
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