Thursday, 19 October 2023 13:55

Transforming dairying with ErgoPOD

Written by  Jamie Mikkelson
Jamie Mikkelson Jamie Mikkelson

OPINION: In the heartland of rural New Zealand, Waikato Milking Systems is on a transformative journey that seeks to revolutionise dairy farming practices with their latest innovation, ErgoPOD.

Under my leadership, the company has set a bold vision: “To be the world’s most trusted partner for dairy performance and productivity.”

The vision may appear ambitious, given the geographical distance from key markets and the understated nature of our Kiwi culture. However, Waikato Milking Systems views this aspiration as a guiding star that drives them to create impactful solutions for dairy farmers worldwide.

Rather than dwelling solely on lofty goals, the company is putting its vision into practical action. The journey towards ErgoPOD began with a pragmatic approach to understanding the challenges faced by dairy farmers during milking time.

The company conducted a comprehensive ideation program that involved engaging with dairy farmers globally. This approach allowed them to gain valuable insights into the pain points and unmet needs of farmers during the milking process. From repetitive actions to cow behaviour, each aspect was carefully analyzed to identify areas for improvement.

An external specialist report, including insights from a workplace ergonomist, provided a valuable understanding of milker comfort and efficiency. The report highlighted ergonomic issues faced by milkers, leading the design team to focus on enhancing milking equipment reliability, reducing re-attachments, and standardizing the milking process.

The team also took inspiration from successful New Zealand inventors who revolutionized dairy farming in the past. From Norman Daysh’s mechanised milking system to Ronald Sharp’s herringbone cowshed, these Kiwi innovations served as a driving force to think differently and push the boundaries of productivity.

Through a series of iterative prototypes and dedicated efforts, ErgoPOD gradually took shape. The design team’s relentless commitment to continuous improvement and learning from failures played a significant role in refining the technology to cater to the diverse needs of milkers.

As ErgoPOD nears its commercialisation phase, Waikato Milking Systems remains grounded in their practical approach. The company recognizes that transformation in the dairy industry requires more than visionary aspirations; it demands a relentless pursuit of innovation and an understanding of the real-world challenges faced by farmers.

ErgoPOD represents a tangible example of how a company can bridge the gap between vision and reality. By aligning their vision with practical objectives, engaging with farmers, and leveraging the spirit of Kiwi innovation, Waikato Milking Systems has created a semi-robotic milking technology that promises to enhance productivity and operator well-being.

As ErgoPOD prepares to enter the market, it represents the power of putting ideas into action and the commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of dairy farmers.

Jamie Mikkelson is executive chairman of Waikato Milking Systems.

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