Life Cube Inc., a Santa Barbara shelter technology company, recently invited Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse and local supporters to an open house to see five new products.
Featured on June 24 was the unveiling of Ice Cube, the latest model for portable cold storage.
“Life Cube started as a disaster relief company,” Life Cube founder Michael Conner told the News-Press. “We thought about FEMA and the Red Cross and things like that, and it developed into a shelter technology development company. Disaster relief is challenging and ginormous and typically requires significant inventory to respond. When a disaster hits, everyone wants millions of dollars worth of shelter right now, and they expect you to have inventory.”
The Ice Cube was developed following the 2021 Cool Cube research and development contract with the U.S. Army Soldier Research Center, which is seeking expeditionary solutions for delivering provisions and medicine to troops on the front lines.
According to inventor Michael Conner, this model is even more robust than the prior units, with heavily insulated walls functioning as a mobile and easily assembled freezer.
“We brought a new concept to shelter, which was innovative, and the shelter industry had been really stagnant for 30 years,: Mr. Conner said. “They used canvas tents when we started. It will always take one person to push something like this. It turned out my calling was to be the shelter guy.
“As an Indiana farm boy, I learned about creating my own luck early on. If you are the first one to get up, you have an advantage over everyone else,” said Mr. Conner.
“Most people think we are somewhere between stubborn and awesome,” he said about Life Cube. “We stuck with it, and all the sudden we are a big deal.
“Life Cube has been an enormously large group of really bright and talented people that have come in and out of Cube for the last 10 years,” he said. “I have worked with some giants over the last ten years. One of those giants is Steve Patton, who sits on the Life Cube board of advisers.
“Steve’s father, Fred Patton invented the life raft,” Mr. Conner said. “The DOD success has given us the bread-and-butter product that we needed. It’s a big, complicated product, and it’s expensive. Bringing a new product to market is difficult.
“We are coming up on 15 years,” he said. “We have about a half a dozen really great shelter guys. They come to the cube because of the cube’s uniqueness. The reality is that this town is full of really bright enthusiastic people that come in and out of the Cube and help us enormously on many levels. I like to think we are carrying on the innovation that Hollister Avenue used to be famous for.”
As previously mentioned, one of the attendees of the June 24 open house was Santa Barbara Mayor Rowse.
“He’s a big fan, and that is why he showed up,” Mr. Conner said. “He spent a couple hours here and broke a bottle of champagne on the Ice Cube that is about to be shipped back east, to a military base for final testing. They have ordered two units and plan to order more.
“We worked really hard to develop new innovation technology so we can have a nimble, small, efficient cooler for a forward operating base,” Mr. Conner said. “We have developed vacuum-improved panel technology. We have contracted with the army on and off over the years.
“But we developed Life Cube while not under contract with the military. I have a great relationship with my people in Massachusetts and D.C. Three, four-star generals are currently champions of Life Cube. I have a very amazing team,” said Mr. Conner.
“We had about 60-70 people at the open house, all our really good, old friends of Life Cube. The coolest thing that could’ve happened happened. Small investors over the years have kept our lights on, and a lot of them re-upped and said ‘I’m going to convert my earlier stock and give more stock,’ and that is only something that happens in movies.”
Life Cube’s Environmental Control Unit can be substituted for the MRU (mobile refrigeration unit), creating a heated shelter for cold weather climates. Shipped in a palletized container, which can roll and transform into a raised foundation and floor, the shelters are designed for remote or austere locations, delivered by air if roads are impassable.
“We are really proud of what we have accomplished in a very challenging manufacturing environment,” Mr. Conner said. “We don’t plan on going anywhere. We plan on bringing significant jobs to the community and bringing a product that everyone can be proud of and is saving lives.”