Dairy farmers could process part of their production as liquid milk on-farm and sell it directly to retailers and customers, if a machine developed by Dutch-based farm equipment manufacturer Lely is rolled out commercially.
Lely's Orbiter system, unveiled Wednesday, draws milk from the firm's milking robots, cools it and bottles it for consumption.
"This on-farm dairy processor matches the high quality standards of large industrial-scale processors," said company chief executive Alexander van der Lely. As automated unit remains sealed for better hygiene, "the quality and taste of milk are safeguarded, because direct on-farm processing is much faster and offers a shorter route from cow to consumer," he added.
You can select cows best suited for certain types of milk, such as sports nutrition, and process it on the farm
According to Lely, the Orbiter system can adjust processing steps to deal with different types of milk during the year and adapt to consumer taste. Speaking at the recent congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, Lely vice president Martijn Boelens said: "You can select cows best suited for certain types of milk, such as sports nutrition, and process it on the farm."
This implies that the bulk of supply would continue to be collected for industrial manufacturing.
Lely has been testing the system on a 100-cow farm in Udenhout, the Netherlands and will start supplying Dutch supermarkets from that unit next month under the Mijn Melk brand.
The company plans to test a small number of Orbiter systems on other farms in the coming years. It has not yet published any details on the cost or profitability of on-farm processing.
Boelens said the technology was part of Lely's broader approach to dairying: "We envison a fully robotised farm", where the farmer focuses on making decisions and managing cows that need attention, he suggested.
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