Our Cool Honduras Adventure with CoolBot!
Store It Cold dares to explore the “catracho” market with revolutionary cooling tech.
Bringing a new technology to the Honduran market can be quite the endeavor; skepticism has put up a fight when it comes to innovations on the cold room concept. People here in Honduras initially react with great curiosity and skepticism to the fact an AC unit can reach temperatures below 18°C; people with technical experience in refrigeration are quick to dismiss the idea of an AC reaching low temperatures.
That is, of course, until they learn about CoolBot.
Our first experience in presenting the technology to a mass audience was at the biannual AgroMercado fair in Honduras in 2016. There, we got a chance to present CoolBot in action with our mobile unit, and producers got to see it first hand as well as those in the refrigeration industry. Our mobile unit is an 8 feet long by 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall insulated box with the CoolBot and a 12k BTU mini-split; what makes it special is that we’re able to reach temperatures as low as 1°C and we average 3°C, even in the hottest places in the country. No sweat, we’re cool.
The reception to CoolBot has been very successful and people have started to believe that a cold room can operate with an AC unit, and feel very attracted to the savings CoolBot promises to deliver if conversion to it takes place. Initial market feedback indicated that people needed a complete solution, rather than a DIY (do it yourself) approach. So we’ve adapted to offer the complete package: the CoolBot, an AC unit, and the construction of an insulated room; rather than just sell the CoolBot.
Now, what’s really important is to see how local producers can now create a better cold chain that can significantly improve the quality of their products, from daily needed fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meats to the finest cheeses, beers, and wines. And with better quality come better margins. Better margins allow the opportunity for growth; this is positive for companies like Super Mercado El Colonial for example, who purchased a CoolBot for their “centro de acopio” and who buy product from 18 smallholder farmers, who in turn are benefit from a stronger, more secure supply chain into which they can sell more of their product.
Before CoolBot, the only commercial option was out of reach for most people. It was something only big companies could afford. The price tag on just the conventional equipment to cool a small room runs at around $4,000 to $7,000 USD. Producers report losses going from 20% in the dairy and meat industry, 35% in seafood, and up to 45% in the agriculture field due to a faulty or absent cold chain. These losses directly impact the pockets of small holder farmers, because half of their work is not turned into profit but rather into low quality goods that are sold at a lower price or worse, turn into waste that cannot be sold at all.
CoolBot has come to shake things up and emerges as not just an option, but the option, the smart and easy way to have a cold room in Honduras.
We’re still dealing with an education issue to open up the path amongst the producers because they feel investing money on something of this nature is either unnecessary or not critical. Even when they’re losing money every harvest, on every batch of new product and moving them away from that train of thought is imperative to trigger the sale of a new technology such as CoolBot. To address this education issue, we’ve been working on partnerships with government institutions and schools and companies of recognized names such as El Zamorano, one of the leading voices in the agro industry, and recently Standard Fruit Company has chosen to convert to CoolBot, which we believe is a powerful sign to those still skeptical of this technology.
There is a piece of wisdom we find rather appropriate for our operation:
Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.
It hasn’t been easy, as anything new never is to place in the market. But our technology returns so much more to those who decide to invest in it, and we believe that Honduras is about to experience a transformation in storing and moving products that demand a temperature-regulated process. CoolBot is leading that transformation in a country where the strongest wealth generation activity takes places in our farms and fields, and half of that wealth has been affected due to the lack of cold storage options. Smallholder farmers face these challenges every harvest several times each year, they are in much need of a solution that is within their reach to improve their supply chain and reduce postharvest loss.
There is lots of work to be done ahead, but the adventure has been so alluring thus far that we strongly believe every demo day, every visit to dairy producers, meat packing factories, and to fields of cucumbers and tomatoes will pay off and will turn into massive demand for CoolBot-operated cold rooms.
We will be there to supply them all.