Roger Gough was driving down Broadlands Rd, past Reporoa's back-to-back dairy farms four and a half years ago, when he suddenly pulled over.
"I was thinking about dairying, dairy cleaning, grease, milk, fat, protein and suddenly 'pow'. I realised microbubbles could be used to clean dairy sheds. I had to write it down then and there in my diary."
Two months earlier, the dairy worker had watched a documentary about microbubbles cleaning steel coils.
"It must have just been ticking away in my head," he told the Rotorua Daily Post this week.
After years of trial and error, tinkering in dairy sheds, and simplifying his invention, CIP Tech's microbubble nozzle has been licensed by the Ministry for Primary Industries MPI to be sold in New Zealand to keep milk quality high and sheds hygienic.
The microbubble method is now being used in 17 dairy farms, from the Taupō and Rotorua areas to the Pōuto Peninsula near Dargaville.
Farmers using the microbubbles carry out their normal routine to wash the plant and vats, in the dairy shed, simply have to send the bubbles down the wash tubes with the flick of a switch.
The turbulence from the bubbles makes it easier to clear the residues.
"That's the beauty of it," Gough said.
"It means they only have to do three hot washes a week, not seven, because they are left cleaner. It saves a bit of time and chemical, but mainly saves money spent on power bills."
About 50 per cent of the cost of running dairy sheds comes from heating water.
"So if you are milking 500 odd cows, you would spend roughly $24,000 a year on the shed operations, and $12,000 a year on hot water. So this is saving about $6000 from that bill, and power doesn't seem to be going down in price."
It has been "a bloody tough" time for Gough, leading up to the invention's tick of approval.
"I did two years without any income. I was supported by my wife. I was pretty poor."
Kapenga M Trust at Ngakuru was one of Gough's trial partners.
Contract sharemilker Paul Forkert described the microbubble system as "virtually idiot-proof".
"You just flick it on and let it go."
Forkert is willing to try anything once, and keep doing it if it works.
"For older generations in farming, it's more of a big thing taking on something new. But from what we have seen, we are saving a fortune on hot water, and the plant is still as clean as a whistle."
He said the microbubbles did come with a major cost to start with, "but it looks like the system will pay itself off in the space of two to three years, and it's maintenance-free, there aren't any moving parts".
It took Gough almost two milking seasons to determine the right air volume to put through the meter, to influence the size of the bubbles for the best clean.
He finally got MPI approval to sell the microbubble nozzle system in New Zealand in the past month, just in time for Fieldays.
"Any equipment in a dairy shed in New Zealand has to be approved, and understandably so. You can't just have any old weird invention in there or it can affect the milk quality.
I had to go through plenty of hoops, but the ministry was really helpful, particularly early on in the paperwork process."
Gough says the invention would never have happened, if it weren't for the generosity of farmers in the Ngakuru and Reporoa area who helped in the first trials, and gave feedback every day.
"It is extraordinary how generous they were. I just asked them 'Can I play in your dairy shed?' and they said 'Yeah Goughy go for it'."
A ministry spokeswoman confirmed it had supplied CIP Tech with an "acceptance of suitability" for its nozzle which accepts the product as "a water conditioner suitable for connection to farm dairy cleaning systems".
More information can be found on the www.ciptech.co.nz website.