Making it Work

Irish agritech firm targets drinks giants with global first in pasteuriser test systems

Unison is seeking to double staff numbers with the launch of an automated system for testing pasteurisers and heat exchangers, and a smart micro-dairy unit

Paul Sheehan, Managing Director, Unison Process Solutions, Limerick, with a HEIST System (Heat Exchange Integrity Self Test System). Picture: Arthur Ellis

Unison, a Limerick-based agritech firm, is aiming to double its headcount by the end of the year with the launch of a system for testing pasteurisers and heat exchangers which it is aiming to sell to global giants like Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

The Enterprise Ireland-backed company is in the middle of launching the new system around the world, and believes it can significantly accelerate its growth by targeting companies in the milk, beer, pharmaceutical and liquid processing industries.

The patented Heat Exchanger Integrity Self-Testing (or Heist) system is the first of its kind globally, according to Paul Sheehan, the firm’s managing director.

“There are certain checks that have to be done on pasteurisers, whether it’s by Coca-Cola, Glanbia, Kerry and so on,” Sheehan told the Business Post.

“Our system can test the pasteurisers fully automatically, to check for a cracked plate, to make sure their valves are working correctly and that the holding tube is working. We’re the only company in the world that can do this at the minute, and we’re getting traction from multinationals everywhere.”

For Unison, which was founded in 2006, the new product is a “very exciting development”, according to Sheehan. While other companies offer manual testing products, Heist is the only automated system globally.

“To be honest, we’re probably the market leaders in the world at the moment for this automatic testing of pasteurisers and heat exchangers,” he said. “We’re very excited about this.”

The launch of Heist isn’t the only development in train at Unison, which currently employs 18 staff at its headquarters in Kilmallock. It is also launching a new “smart micro-dairy” unit, designed to speed up the process of milk vending for dairy farmers looking to improve their efficiencies. The modular product, which can be installed on a farm in two days, means a farmer can process raw milk more easily and cheaply than ever before.

Unison currently counts the likes of Glanbia, Diageo, Kerry Group and Danone among its client list. But it also works with small, artisan farmers, which is where the micro-dairy product is being marketed.

“We’re kind of split in two areas,” Sheehan said, referring to the two strands to the business. “One minute we could be on a farm, dealing with a miniature pasteuriser with a farmer, and the next day we could be dealing with the likes of Danone or Pepsi Cola, and so on.

“On the multinational side, we want to get involved in the testing of pasteurisers and heat exchangers. And then on the artisan side, the agricultural side, we’ve developed the micro-dairy. We’ve progressed from a small servicing engineering company to a leading manufacturer of process solutions.”

The growth for Unison has been gradual and self-financed, Sheehan said. “We’ve always been thinking of how best to invest to grow the company to its potential, and managing our growth has been challenging at times.”

But the company is on a positive trajectory, he added. “We’ll have between 36 and 48 staff by next year, depending on the success of our smart micro-dairy, and our other new products, including Heist. And we’re anticipating good demand.”

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland