Slindon company that invented device to prevent dairy cow udder infections wins top award

A company that invented a device to prevent dairy cows from getting udder infections has won a prestigious award.

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 11:10 am

A late-night lightbulb moment was responsible for James Duke inventing a cow milking unit that cleans itself.

And now his Slindon-based business has added another award to its growing shelf: the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth for doubling overseas sales over the last three years.

The 59-year-old from Sidlesham said: “I’m really pleased for the whole team.

James Duke, founder of ADF Milking in Slindon, West Sussex

“It is a team effort and it is a great product that does what it says on the tin.”

Having worked in the UK milking machine industry, James noticed a growing need in parlours: a system that could prevent cow’s teats getting infected after milking, a condition known as mastitis. So he racked his brains for a solution before inspiration struck in 2004.

James said: “At 2am one morning I woke up because I was trying to work it out, and then, ‘bang: I’ve got it’. I sat up and wrote it down, but then I thought I’ll just do it. So by 4.30am, I had gone to my workshop and cobbled something together.”

After ‘borrowing’ his wife’s car tyre as a source of air pressure to make the device work, he visited his neighbour Chris Spiby at Chalder Farm and tried it on his cows. Twelve prototypes later, and in 2005 James launched his ADF system, which stands for automated dipping and flushing.

It works by not only cleaning the cow’s teats and moisturising them after each milking, but also sanitises itself between cows using the machine.

James explained: “If I had a pot of yoghurt and one spoon, we wouldn’t dream of sharing that spoon between us.

“That argument is exactly the same with milking units: if it comes into contact with an unhealthy cow, you would transfer the infection to the second cow.”

The product proved a success, and in 2010 James decided to expand the business internationally.

The company based in Shellbridge Road, Slindon saw exports grow by more than 50 per cent in the last three years, and overseas sales now represent three quarters of its business.

The system is used in 30 countries worldwide, including the US and Australia, and accounts for approximately 20 per cent of all milk produced in the UK – and the team has grown to 45 direct employees.

The ADF system previously won the Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2013.

The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise were set up in 1965 and are the highest official awards for UK business.

James will be invited to a royal reception following this win.