Development of Small-Scale Storage Facilities for Winter Storage of Fresh Produce

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $108,829.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Scott Sanford
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Vegetables: beets, cabbages, carrots, onions, parsnips, rutabagas, cucurbits, turnips


  • Education and Training: demonstration, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study
  • Production Systems: general crop production


    This project developed an 84 page technical bulletin entitled “On-Farm Cold Storage of Fall-Harvested Fruit and Vegetable Crops: Planning, Design and Operation”. This comprehensive bulletin includes information on determining space requirements, types of storage facilities, number of cold storage rooms needed, environmental conditions required for different crops, construction materials and techniques, refrigeration systems, humidification equipment and material handling for stored crops. The outreach of this project made presentations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, South Dakota and MOSES Organic conference with about 926 people attending the 16 presentations at fifteen conferences. In addition a resource website has been set up to provide ongoing information to growers on the subject of cold storage ( Growers are encouraged to submit questions for consideration in a “Frequently Asked Question” section.

    An ambient-air cooling controller has been developed that can control the use of ambient air cooling in multiple cold storage rooms. A publication on how to build your own unit is in the publication process and should be available summer 2016. A link will be provided on the crop storage website to the publication. A small low-cost humidifier and humidistat was testing and work satisfactorily. Humidification is the one environmental parameter that is not well controlled in most on-farm cold storage facilities. The humidifier was shown to growers at many meetings so they could get an idea of how simple these units are.

    Several decision making tools were developed: A tool to estimate the energy cost to operate a cold storage facility, one to estimate the cost of construction of a conventionally framed cooler and an economic analysis tool to help determine if you grow and store a crop, if you can be profitable.

    Project objectives:

    • Develop plans and construction details for 3 different basic storage facilities types that can be modified (enlarged or reduced in size) based on a grower’s needs and resources: These three basic types are: in-ground (earth contact on a minimum of 3 sides), new above ground construction, and storage rooms install into existing buildings (such as old dairy barns).

    • Develop plans for an effective low-cost environmental control using commercially available components to control temperature, humidity and take advantage of outside air for temperature modification.

    • Test different methods for humidifying small storage facilities and develop recommendations for small-scale winter storage facilities. Methods under consideration for testing include residential room humidifiers, small evaporative cooling pads, misting, and commercially-available humidifiers.

    • Develop extension publication(s) that will cover design and management of a cold storage facility. This will include full plans for sample structures that would be available as a free PDF download from the University of Wisconsin Extension Publication web site.

    • Develop and deliver workshops and webinar presentations to disseminate the information to educators and growers throughout the North Central region. Our goal would be to do 6 to 10 workshops and 4 to 8 webinars. Some of the workshops would be in cooperation with a grower that has built a facility or with a regional meeting such as the Midwest Organic Farming Conference. An average of thirty people per workshop or webinar is expected.

    • Develop a spreadsheet decision tool to aid growers in determining if winter storage crops will be economical for their operation. It will be posted on the national eXtension website.

    • Develop web pages on crop storage facilities for the national eXtension website. Links will be provided for publications, spreadsheet tools, educational presentations from workshops and webinars.

    • Work with grower/cooperators to test plans, designs and environmental controls. We hope to find growers to test all three designs. Because of the time between the writing of this grant, the start of funding and the availability of finished plans is about 2 years, it was premature to identify growers now. If a grower currently has an interest in building a storage facility, they are likely not going to wait 2 years for our project to develop plans. With the interest in locally supplied food, we don’t think we will have any trouble finding interested parties to test our plans.

    • Provide assistance to growers who are developing their own facilities. We will aid growers who have been through a workshop or webinar to develop a farmstead plan and modify plans to fit their individual needs.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.