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 many benefits in the milking shed.
Dr Tiddy, 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 in farming, apart from working as a casual milker to help a dairy-farmer friend during the busy period.
Mr Shaffett 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.
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 away until he thought of connecting 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 about 25 million movements changing 5 million to 7 million sets of cups.
Using EzyCups reduces the workload by about a third on average.
That was about a year ago, and the pair have put in thousands of hours of testing and progressed through 12 designs before launching the final product recently.
To improve marketability in the main dairying regions, EzyCups come 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 the developers say it is a serious product that has even more benefits than just reducing physical stress on the milker.
The cups can be fit 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 speed up milking, reduce cup slip, give better milk flow and the pair believe they are gentler on the animal's teat.
Cups fitted with EzyCups don't lie on the floor as readily when removed, which could improve milk quality.
Farmers report the EzyCups are easier on staff's shoulders, produce quicker milkings and better-quality milk.
Before patenting the technology, Dr Tiddy and Mr Shaffett did extensive international research and found there was nothing else like their product around.
Mr Shaffett also returned to the United States to attend the World Dairy Expo and was heartened by 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.
The pair are so confident in their product they are offering to do a complete install for local farmers and give them a seven-day trial.
EzyMilk is now advertising for salespeople to join the team, with the ultimate aim of going international. APN News & Media
For more information about EzyMilk products visit www.ezymilk.co.nz