DeLaval's Father of Innovation

DeLaval Automated Milking Rotary

Uzi Birk is known at DeLaval as the Father of VMS and recently, the Father of AMR. This is a title of which Uzi is proud and which is well-earned.

We asked him a few questions to better understand the man behind the most significant systems DeLaval has ever built.

Uzi BirkUzi Birk

Title

Senior Technical Director

Works with/as

Heads the Research & Innovation group at DeLaval

Background

  • Comes from a family of dairy farmers
  • Qualified Electrical Engineer (Sweden)
  • Qualified Mechanical Engineer (Israel)
  • Has worked at DeLaval more than 35 years 
  • Innovator of DeLaval’s most important systems : ALPRO™, VMS™ and now AMR™

“The milker is always my inspiration”

It all started with the VMS.

In the late 1900’s people were leaving the dairy industry for less manually demanding sectors.  It was difficult to find people to work at dairy farms and farms were shutting down. With the experience of having hand-milked cows himself for many years, and his engineering skills, Uzi wanted to free people from the heavy work of attaching milking machines to cows.

Inspired by the concept of an automobile, he was convinced that a machine could be made to make working conditions easier for the milk producer, making a dairy farm an attractive work place so that the farmer could remain in business.

In 1998, the VMS was born.

The VMS was the first step for automation for family farms. Uzi’s ambition was to build a similar concept for larger installations. ” The idea of the AMR was always in my mind”, he says. It was the natural continuation for larger farms.

“Very few people believed in the VMS”

It took 60-80 years to develop the car we know today. In 2005, 10 years  after taking up the initial idea (1000 units had been sold), Uzi handed over the VMS to the internal DeLaval organization. Uzi and his team had developed an automatic milking machine that took into consideration and improved, working conditions, animal welfare, the environment, and the profitability of the dairy operation.

The AMR was next in line.

The biggest challenge for the VMS and later, on a lesser scale, for the AMR, was to convince the farmers, the authorities, the academics, the institutions and even the  internal DeLaval organization that these solutions were indeed something worthwhile. “In the beginning, very few people believed in the VMS, but it was easier with AMR”, Uzi says.

Another challenge was to design a safe, reliable, robust and fast working attachment for a rotary that moved all the time and worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Whereas the VMS had put the individual cow into focus, the AMR was more about capacity milking. The needs were more complex, demanding attachment and teat cleaning in less time and with high reliability, that worked on all cows.  The robot arm was further developed.

“I think like an end user – I consistently ask myself how technology can help me.”

With a family history in dairy farming, and degrees in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Uzi has worked in almost all areas of DeLaval. With the creative mind of an innovator, he is always asking himself how things can be done better.

Keeping abreast of technology is no easy task, and Uzi maintains his clarity of vision by continuously exposing himself to new thoughts and ideas via technical magazines, exhibitions and engineer and farmer networks. ” I think like an end user – I consistently ask myself how technology can help me,” he says.

“Very few people can create something new”, he adds.

Automatic milking will be a very common way of milking cows

Just like the car became a commodity in modern life, so too will automatic milking be a common way for milking cows. The technology is here, and it will only get better. VMS is becoming more and more common and in 10-15 years, the AMR will also be common.

Working on applications for next generation

The AMR project has also now been handed over to the internal DeLaval organization, and Uzi’s next engagements are to do with cow status monitoring and milk analyses. Him and his team work also on models for precision farming, that is, a way of using cow status information to optimize a farming operation.

He runs the Research and Innovation unit at DeLaval and is quietly tinkering on new technology for the next generation. An innovator in the true sense of the word.

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