"Think small" could be the motto at Bob-White Systems in South Royalton.
"I think the ultimate irony is the fact that 90 percent of the milk that is made in Vermont is shipped out of Vermont where it is processed and packaged and loaded onto trucks and brought back to Vermont and sold to us at retail," said Steve Judge of Bob-White.
The company sells small milking equipment and livestock supplies, but that is not all. Judge, a team of engineers and several investors have spent the past six years developing a pint-sized pasteurizer to be used on the farm by small milk producers. It's called the LILI, which stands for Low Input-Low Impact.
"So we wanted to have modern technology and have a modern approach to the problem and develop a machine that would be effective, easy to operate and quick, because these days time is money and we want to save time and money and effort and minimize the resources that would be required for inputs to sell milk locally," Judge said.
It gives farmers another tool to use, and perhaps produce another value-added product like yogurt to help boost the bottom line.
"Yes, the concept of a high temperature, short time pasteurizer which is what this ultimately is, is nice because it gives continuous flow. Most pasteurizers are vat pasteurizers. It takes time for them to warm up. They have to hold the milk at temp, then they let it cool back down," said Dan Scruton of the dairy division at the Vermont Agriculture Agency.
Testing is being done on the LILI in a small barn. Three cows are milked every day, producing about 20 gallons of milk that is then run through the system every three days. The LILI heats the milk up to 161 degrees or a bit above and holds it there for 15 seconds. The milk flows at a gallon per minute. The milk is cooled, and then the pasteurized milk exits at about 65 degrees where it is put into another tank for storage and additional cooling.
"Steve's first assignment was pasteurize milk as gently as possible without changing its character or its flavor and do it in such a way that is safe and effective and that it works in a farm environment or microdairy environment. So we have pretty much done that," said John McHugh of Bob-White.
The LILI also has a self-cleaning and sanitizing system that uses hot water, rather than chemicals.
"The system is full of 170-degree water for five minutes. We chase that out with milk, so it will come out the drain of this tank. And when it changes to plain milk, the only thing you have dumped down the drain is hot water," McHugh said.
Bob-White Systems is still waiting for Food and Drug Administration approval, and plans to sell the LILI for $35,000. Already there is a lot of interest. Not only from farmers across the country, but from other countries as well.
"Even Afghanistan," said Leslie Polubinski of Bob-White. "The U.S. military is building a microdairy down in Kandahar and they have been interested in the LILI, as well. So that's one of our most exciting potential users."
There are similar machines on the market, but the LILI is specifically designed for small milk producers. A market Bob White Systems is banking on.