From improving human nutrition to assuring clean water to growing the farm economy while caring for animals, the Dairy Innovation Hub will harness the intellectual and creative power of three University of Wisconsin institutions to address the most complex challenges facing the state’s dairy industry.
The Legislature allocated $8.8 million for the Dairy Hub in the 2019-21 budget to UW-Madison, UW- Platteville, and UW-River Falls.
Last week, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee released the funding, $1 million this fiscal year and $7.8 million allocated for 2020-21. On Wednesday, the agriculture deans of the three institutions participating in the UW Dairy Innovation Hub toured Four Cubs Farm, the 700-cow dairy operation owned by Regent Cris Peterson and her family.
The funding will allow for hiring dozens of faculty and researchers, creation of an Advanced Dairy Management Academy, improving research labs and farms, and purchasing equipment.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for increased collaboration among our campuses,” said Dale Gallenberg, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at UW-River Falls. “We look forward to serving as a model for other collaborative initiatives within the UW System.”
The vision for the Dairy Innovation Hub was originally crafted by industry partners following the 2017 UW System Dairy Summit and was supported as a top priority by members of the state’s Dairy Task Force 2.0.
Wayne Weber, Dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture at UW–Platteville, stated that “our industry supporters are vital to the success of our programs. We greatly appreciate their support and we will continue to work with them in setting priorities for the Hub. In fact, one of our first items of business is to establish an advisory council that will consist of members of each of the three campuses along with equal representation from industry.”
The three campuses have already been working together to plan for the launch of the Hub. Now that it has received final approval, they are working in earnest to launch Hub activities.
“We are excited for the possibilities this funding will provide our faculty and staff to work together on research and talent development for the state,” said Kate VandenBosch, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW-Madison.
The Hub will enable the expansion of research efforts in four focus areas:
* Stewarding land and water resources
* Enriching human health and nutrition
* Ensuring animal health and welfare
* Growing farm businesses and communities
The deans look forward to tackling such challenges as:
* Increasing capacity for groundwater and runoff monitoring
* Repurposing waste from cheese production for bioenergy or other uses
* Developing new products for people with allergies or sensitivities to traditional dairy products
In addition to research, academic programming is an important aspect of the initiative. The deans agree that developing the future leaders of the dairy industry is an essential function of each campus that will be fostered by the Hub.
“The Dairy Innovation Hub holds great promise for assisting Wisconsin’s dairy industry,” said UW System President Ray Cross. “It’s another example of the way the UW System is meeting the needs of Wisconsin.”
Gallenberg, Weber, and VandenBosch are scheduled to discuss the Dairy Hub on Thursday when the Board of Regents meets at UW-Superior.