Piper Systems, an Irish AgTech company based in Co. Wicklow, has signed a €1.8 million deal in the US to increase sustainability in the dairy industry. The company provides advanced data and quality systems to handle the metering, pumping, and sampling of milk. The technology is used onboard milk tankers and on farms to ensure that farmers get paid fairly for the milk they produce. Founded by engineer Archie Hamilton almost 30 years ago, the central part of the business is ensuring that farmers get paid fairly for the milk they produce.
In 2018, Archie’s daughter, Leigh Hamilton, took over as chief executive at the family business. As a barrister for 13 years, Leigh Hamilton brings a unique perspective to the company. She explains that collecting milk samples from different farms and getting an accurate sample from each farmer is crucial. The milk might have been in the tank stratifying for a long period of time since the cows have been milked. So there’s a real art and science to doing that. And that’s one of the things that Piper Systems specializes in.
Piper Systems has developed technology that provides extra traceability and quality assurance to milk processors. The company is embarking on a pilot project with its big clients in Ireland to power milk pick-ups more sustainably. The company has already successfully trailed powering its technology from the batteries on electric milk tankers in the UK and “plugging in” on farms in the US. Aurivo, Dairygold, Tirlán, Lakeland Dairies, and Kerry Group are among the Irish co-ops using the company’s technology.
Piper Systems recently signed a deal with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a US dairy cooperative with more than 11,500 family farmers, which includes a €180 million capital investment in equipment made by the Irish company. The deal followed several years of work by the company to change US regulations and allow technology that is already used in Ireland to enter the US market. Piper took part in several regulatory hearings in the US and was endorsed by major processors, including DFA.
Leigh Hamilton, whose legal background proved very useful, said, “We can’t exaggerate how excited we are by this. I think we were able to succeed there because of that kind of unique expertise that we had in the legal and regulatory part. But also because as a small Irish company, we own the design and manufacture of our system. That allowed us to respond to the regulatory requirements there in a way that gave us great flexibility. We had to invest loads of time, and lots of design hours, lots of engineering expertise and really specialise our technology for that market.”
The painstaking development work has resulted in different products which are optimised for the needs of the dairy markets in Ireland, the US, Australia, and New Zealand. “It’s a brilliant headline, but as you can imagine, there’s a hell of a lot of work behind that headline done by a hell of a lot of people over a long time. I’m incredibly proud of the work that they’ve done. When we started work five years ago looking at the US market, this is exactly what we wanted to do, we were scaling towards this,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton believes that the change in US regulations and the deal with DFA offers “huge” opportunities for Piper Systems in the future. “The use of data technology in how you load milk, in how you move milk, and in the important piece of optimising how those weights and samples are obtained, and in optimising the quality of milk, we’re just getting into that, and there’s huge potential for that. At the end of all that process, are we just going to put any old bit of that milk into the sample that gets tested for payments? It just doesn’t make sense. We’re bringing that level of attention, technology, and intelligence to the piece of the puzzle that determines what that milk is worth financially,” Hamilton said.