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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘All that is required is a concrete base, internet, electricity, drainage, and water supply’

Milk Processing 

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Paul Sheehan, Limerick of Unison Process Solutions, in the second part of our exclusive interview in this week’s dairy segment.

We discuss the firm’s product called, The Smart Microdairy, which makes milk on-farm processing and milk vending easy for farmers. You can read part one of our interview.

“We launched the Smart Microdiary a few months ago, and we have two units being installed in Ireland by the end of the year.

We are excited to introduce the product to the market here in Ireland. Also, we have some trade shows in the UK and Europe at which we will be introducing it to those markets.

With the Smart Microdairy, Unison has streamlined the process so that it requires ten times less labour. It is a much quicker process, and health and safety standards are easier to adhere to.

Our main aim when creating the product was to ensure that the farmer had a very easy way to process their milk on-farm.

Rather than taking 3/4 hours a day between processing, cleaning, and moving tanks, it is now reduced to about 1 hour in total.

Added to the ease of use, the unit comes with a built-in milk dispenser that is connected to the milk tanks. This means that heavy tanks (could be up to 60-70kg) no longer need to be moved for vending or cleaning.

The Smart Microdairy

When compared to batch pasteurising, the Smart Microdairy is also much more economical – generating six-and-a-half times less operational costs, along with less energy and water usage.

In comparison to batch pasteurising, with the Smart Microdairy, farmers who are milk vending will no longer have to spend hours processing, cleaning, and moving heavy tanks. The Smart Microdairy makes the process simple!,

Previously, dairy farmers looking to start vending had a very long process ahead of them, including applying for planning, building hygienic rooms (and operator changing rooms) along with hiring and managing contractors to carry out the work.

The Smart Microdairy is a plug-and-play solution that does not require any additional building; all that is required is a concrete base, internet, electricity, drainage, and water supply. It includes everything required for processing and dispensing.

The Microdairy can be installed on-farm in just one day. With the current process (batch or continuous flow), farmers have to change from their farm clothes into a gown, hat and shoe covers and ensure they keep to all HACCP guidelines when entering the processing room.

Often, they have to be present for the processing as they have to manually operate the pumps, change tanks, move tanks, clean down the equipment etc.

We have made this so it is all done fully automatically at the touch of a button on their mobile phone; life-changing for the farmer.


Pasteurising using the Smart Microdairy is very simple for the farmer. The few simple steps include:

  1. Connecting the raw milk to the back of the pasteuriser;
  2. From outside the unit, the farmer just has to select the amount of milk that they would like processed and press the start button. The pasteuriser is fully automatic, so it will look after everything else. The unit is operated remotely, meaning that the farmer does not have to enter the processing/clean room environment;
  3. About 15 minutes later (Including heat up and diversion valve check), the tanks will start filling with pasteurised and cooled milk which can then be sold to customers.
  4. At the end of the day, to clean the Smart Microdairy, the farmer needs to connect the pipes to the detergent drums at the back of the unit and press start clean cycle. The pasteuriser will wash itself, the tanks and the piping to ensure that it is ready for the next day.

The Smart Microdairy building is a stainless steel structure which is a hygienic/clean room and is built to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine regulations for dairy processing.

The pasteuriser inside the processing room is an HTST/Flash pasteuriser. It makes the diversification of a farm to selling direct very simple.

Dairy farmers can have their equipment installed in just one day and with less stress, hassle, and cost.


When comparing the Smart Microdiary with batch pasteurising, it has:

  • Lower set-up costs;
  • 3 x faster process;
  • 6 1/2 x lower operational costs;
  • 10 x less labour;
  • A higher standard of pasteurized milk;
  • More economical – up to 92% heat recovery;
  • Extended shelf-life;
  • Easier to clean.
Low operational costs
  • Once installed, our milk vending solutions require very little input to ensure that they are operating as they should;
  • Once the milk is pasteurised and put into the vending machine, the machines are operated by customers themselves;
  • Farmers do not require a salesperson to be present as the machines are very easy for customers to use with card and cash systems for payment incorporated;
  • For farmers, this leads to low operational costs and makes it a viable option for increasing income;
  • If your farm is not the ideal location for a milk vending business, there are several options;
  • Many of our clients have their vending machines at local supermarkets, farmers’ markets or cafés;
  • Some have even repurposed old horse boxes as mobile milk vending units, so they can easily relocate and sell their milk in several spots in their locality.
An easy route to diversification 
  • Milk vending allows dairy farmers to get more value for their milk than if they are selling all of their milk to large creameries;
  • The Smart Microdiary and milk vending allow them an easy route to diversification with a quick ROI, low operational costs and a huge reduction in the amount of labour that would have typically been required;
  • Environmental sustainability;
  • Because milk vending machines are usually found on or very near the farm where the milk was produced, buying this way helps decrease food miles and the carbon footprint of our milk;
  • Our machines also promote the use of glass bottles for the collection of milk versus less environmentally friendly alternatives;
  • Experience and taste;
  • As consumers become more interested in how they can shop locally and reduce environmental impact, milk vending machines are becoming increasingly popular;
  • In addition to the benefits to the farm and the environment, buying milk directly from a local farm also tastes better;
  • Low food miles mean it is as fresh as you can get, and the taste will be all the better for it;
  • Many milk vending businesses offer other local products such as eggs, veg, bread, cheese, and fresh baking, so their milk business becomes more like a farm shop;
  • We even have customers who have started offering school visits from local students to show them where the milk has come from and how it is processed.

With the Smart Microdairy, we have taken feedback from our existing milk vending customers, along with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to build a unit that includes everything required for processing milk before selling it directly to customers.

The product is patented by Unison, and there is no other system on the market like it.

We have made the system as user-friendly as possible so that dairy farmers no longer have to climb hurdles to set up a business where they are selling directly to customers and have a very easy route to getting more value for their milk.

It is a multi-award winning product, having won the agri-engineering innovation awards from the National Dairy Show and Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Arena.

We manufacture the pasteuriser and the majority of the product ourselves, with some elements, such as the building and the dispenser, coming from trusted overseas suppliers.

Moreover, we have spent the last two years making improvements and ensuring that the Smart Microdairy is exactly the right solution.

We have only launched it recently, and the reaction so far has been amazing. We are excited to introduce the product to further markets.”

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