Based on the telling of the tale, a different strategy might have been to a milk packer that used re-usable glass bottles. Buy milk from Fronterra, then package it in re-usable packaging, and work with the grocery stores to stock it and handle the returns. Work that cycle developing tools and processes that get the use of reusable containers to the same level of efficiency as the plastic containers. That is like a 5 year project right there. Surveys of stores on their return process, helping them improve it, maybe building receiving kiosks that handle it without the store having to train employees to do the return.
Just doing that and you have helped the dairy business be more sustainable. Once that is running, then start looking at remote milking the cows. Your bottling company now has two brands, "earth friendly" milk in sustainable bottles, and "earth and cow friendly" milk in sustainable bottles from happy cows.
The fact that he even got this far- doing it all by himself, where others would have run out of money just making plans for a bottling plant- that alone is quite impressive.
The valley can learn a thing or two from those proto-typing maniacs out there, who dont spend half a year on there knees to get the procurement management to sign of on some vital investment just so that some hierarchy and kings-court do feel important.