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Kiwi winemaker hopes to clean up dairy industry

Liquid Strip, the brainchild of Greg Morgan, removes solids from wastewater and converts them into a pellet or slug form that can then be used as fuel for fires.

A Kiwi winemaker looks set to clean up the dairy industry with a new invention that saves farmers money while keeping things green.

Greg Morgan’s invention, Liquid Strip, removes solids from wastewater and converts them into a pellet or slug form.

The invention works by passing unwanted liquids through a filter that uses patented technology to transform waste into useful solids.

He initially developed the device so that the by-product can then be used as fuel for fires.

Morgan, who has been in the wine industry for more than 22 years, came up with the idea after observing that massive amount of water was wasted in the winemaking process.

“Through the process of juicing, the wine industry uses about seven litres of water for every bottle of wine. It’s even higher in some stages.”

Liquid Strip is just one of Morgan’s many projects. The 37-year-old inventor says he has always been a “tinkerer” and enjoys working on motorsport equipment and boats as well.

He hopes the benefits of the invention will go beyond the wine industry as the invention can also be used to create fertiliser.

Morgan sees it as a solution to what the media have labelled “dirty dairying”.

“In the dairy waste industry the major problem at the moment is that you’ve got cow sheds and runoff that comes from the spray in paddocks. Irrigating them is causing problems as it’s leached into the water and into the river system. I think this is the solution.”

Morgan says there is an annual $4 million bill regarding clean rivers.

He has put steps in place to contact the Waikato Mayor and other regional councillors to set up test facilities.

Once the test trials are complete, he hopes dairy giant Fonterra will buy into the product when it realises the benefits of sustainability and reduction in carbon foot print.

“Fonterra’s got the monopoly . . .  80 percent of the global dairy industry and growing. Each unit is worth roughly $200,000 which is nothing for them. They’ve got 28,000 farms in New Zealand, so a unit is nothing.”

Fonterra is a party to the Clean Streams Accord, a voluntary code aimed at getting farmers to minimise the impact of dairying on New Zealand’s waterways.

The most recent review of the accord showed non-compliance with the agreement increased by 1percent to 16 percent for 2009-2010.

Iain Butler, spokesperson for the Ministry of Fishing and Agriculture, says most farmers are managing effluent responsibly despite the accord being voluntary.

He says it is very common for farmers to use liquid effluent as a fertiliser but it is not always convenient to store or use.

“It is one of the easiest ways to get rid of effluent. But you have to be very careful when to put it on and how often.”

He says he is unfamiliar with the idea of compressing effluent into a slug form, and adds any technological breakthrough is a good thing.

“A lot of farmers are innovative people who are interested in new systems and technologies that will save them money.”

Morgan’s invention has been patented and is in the incubation stage with the AUT Business Innovation Centre.

But the path has not been easy as Morgan has faced a lot of “wet blankets”. For example, one former business associate tried to sell the invention by passing it off as his own.

“If you’ve got something good, people want to tack onto it,” he says.

This story originally appeared in Te Waha Nui, the AUT student newspaper.

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