Sometimes the simple ideas are the best ones. That's what EzyMilk founders Richard Tiddy and Tim Shaffett are hoping.
The pair have developed the EzyCup - a device they say has numerous benefits in the milking shed.
Dr Tiddy (BVSc, MSc), a veterinary consultant, first met Mr Shaffett, the inventor, on referral from Christian business network Business Edge.
Mr Shaffett is an American who came to New Zealand on holiday 20 years ago and never left.
He admits he had no real experience apart from working as a casual milker to help a dairy farmer friend during the busy AB period.
Mr Shaffett says he immediately found cupping repetitive and exhausting and thought there had to be a better way to reduce the number of movements required to fit the cups.<inline type="photogallery" id="16858" align="outside" embed="no" />
His first idea was to connect all four cups using a plastic plate with holes cut in it.
That didn't work and he put the idea to bed for a while until he thought of connecting pairs of cups with a more flexible device.
Mr Shaffett explained his concept to Dr Tiddy, who immediately saw the potential.
They calculated that a dairy farmer of 20 years, milking twice a day in a large shed, would make approximately 25 million movements changing 5-7 million sets of cups.
Using EzyCups reduced the workload by about a third on average - a substantial improvement.
That was about a year ago and the pair set about undertaking thousands of hours of testing and progressed through 12 designs from the original prototype before launching the product recently.
To improve marketability in the main dairying regions EzyCups comes in three colours - red, yellow and black - and can be assembled in any combination depending on your allegiance to Waikato, Taranaki or Canterbury.
"Blue is also available for second tier teams," they joke.
But they say it is a serious product that has even more benefits than just reducing physical stress on the milker.
They can be fitted to a range of cluster brands, to either one one or both pairs of cups, and adjusted to suit different styles of sheds and milking techniques.
They are easy to get used to and speed up milking, reduce cup slip, give better milk flow and the pair believe they are gentler on the teat.
Cups fitted with EzyCups don't lie on the floor as readily when removed which could improve milk quality.
Evidence also points to slow milkers milking out faster.
Farmers report it is easier on the shoulders for staff, quicker milkings and better milk out.
Prior to patenting Dr Tiddy and Mr Shaffett did extensive international research and found there was nothing else in the world like their product.
Mr Shaffett also returned home to attend the World Dairy Expo and was heartened by the response to the product.
He says American dairying is on a much different and larger scale than New Zealand, but sees the EzyCups being of benefit there also.
EzyMilk step up promotions
The pair are so confident of their product they are offering to do a complete install for local farmers and give them a seven day trial.
Promotion to date has been by personal contact and word-of-mouth. EzyMilk are stepping that up and are advertising in today's issue for salespeople to join the team and grow the market.
The ultimate aim is to go international and make milking 'Ezier' the world over. Farmers are already volunteering other ideas for both this product and future products in the EzyMilk range to make milking quicker, easier and better.