An Irish AgTech company that recently signed a €1.8 million deal in the US has its sights firmly set on increasing sustainability in the dairy industry.

Piper Systems, based in Co. Wicklow, provides advanced data and quality systems to handle the metering, pumping and sampling of milk. The technology is used onboard milk tankers and on farms.

Founded by engineer Archie Hamilton almost 30 years ago, the central part of the business is ensuring that farmers get paid fairly for the milk they produce.


In 2018, Archie’s daughter, Leigh Hamilton, who had been practicing as a barrister for 13 years, took over as chief executive at the family business.

“You might be collecting 3,000L from one farm, 15,000L from the next, but you have to get an accurate sample from each and every farmer.

“And you have to do that even though that milk might have been in the tank stratifying for a long period of time since the cows have been milked.

“So there’s a real art and a science to doing that. And that’s one of the things that we specialise in,” she told Agriland.

Leigh Hamilton

“The other thing that’s quite special about the technology that we have is that we’re able to put in data learning that allows us to ensure that we’re making quality checks on that milk at the same time,” Hamilton added.

Hamilton said this technology provides extra traceability and quality assurance to milk processors.

Piper, which employs 14 people in Co. Wicklow, along with two staff members in the US, is embarking on a pilot project with its big clients in Ireland to power milk pick-ups more sustainably.

The company has already successfully trailed powering its technology from the batteries on electric milk tankers in the UK and “plugging in” on farms in the US.

Aurivo, Dairygold, Tirlán, Lakeland Dairies and Kerry Group are among the Irish co-ops using the company’s technology.

US market

Piper Systems recently struck a deal with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a US dairy cooperative with more than 11,500 family farmers, which includes a €180 million capital investment in equipment made by the Irish company.

The deal followed several years of work by the company to change US regulations and allow technology that is already used in Ireland to enter the US market.

Piper took part in several regulatory hearings in the US and importantly was endorsed by major processors, including DFA.

“We can’t exaggerate how excited we are by this,” Hamilton, whose legal background proved very useful, said.

“I think we were able to succeed there because of that kind of unique expertise that we had in the legal and regulatory part. But also because as a small Irish company we own the design and manufacture of our system.

“That allowed us to respond to the regulatory requirements there in a way that gave us great flexibility.

“We had to invest loads of time, and lots of design hours, lots of engineering expertise and really specialise our technology for that market,” she explained.

The painstaking development work has resulted in different products which are optimised for the needs of the dairy markets in Ireland, the US, Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s a brilliant headline but as you can imagine, there’s a hell of a lot of work behind that headline done by a hell of a lot of people over a long time. I’m incredibly proud of the work that they’ve done.

“When we started work five years ago looking at the US market, this is exactly what we wanted to do, we were scaling towards this,” Hamilton said.

Steve and Tim Kayhart who produce milk using Piper Systems technology in Vermont, USA

Hamilton believes that the change in US regulations and the deal with DFA offers “huge” opportunities for Piper Systems in the future.

“The use of data technology in how you load milk, in how you move milk, and in the important piece of optimising how those weights and samples are obtained, and in optimising quality of milk, we’re just getting into that and there’s huge potential for that.

“Everyone in agriculture knows the attention that farmers pay to nutrition, breeding and all of the things that contribute towards their cows producing top-quality milk.

“At the end of all that process, are we just going to put any old bit of that milk into the sample that gets tested for payments? It just doesn’t make sense.

“We’re bringing that level of attention, technology and intelligence to the piece of the puzzle that determines what that milk is worth financially,” Hamilton said.