Dairy Innovation Hub: Three UW schools roll up sleeves to launch Hub activities
Funds for the Dairy Innovation Hub, proposed in May, were released by the legislature's Joint Finance Committee on Oct. 2. The Legislature allocated $8.8 million for the Dairy Hub in the 2019-21 budget to UW-Madison, UW-Platteville, and UW-River Falls.
The funding, $1 million this fiscal year and $7.8 million allocated for 2020-21, will allow for hiring dozens of faculty and researchers, creation of an Advanced Dairy Management Academy, improving research labs and farms, and purchasing equipment, according to a UW Systems news release.
On Oct. 9, 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, according to the UW Systems news release.
As stated in the Dairy Task Force 2.0 final report, "When Wisconsin’s dairies thrive, the whole state benefits; our prosperity is directly tied to the health of the dairy industry and its $43 billion dollar annual revenue," and a "vibrant research effort is the edge Wisconsin needs" to stay ahead in the global marketplace.
"The same forces — leadership, research and education — that built Wisconsin’s dairy industry can be the keys to rebuilding its strength," the report added.
Wayne Weber, Dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture at UW–Platteville pointed to the importance of industry supporters to the UW programs. Weber said UW officials would work with industry experts 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,” said Weber.
With the final approval of the Hub, the three campuses 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,” Kate VandenBosch, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW-Madison said in the news release.
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 agreed that developing the future leaders of the dairy industry is an essential function of each campus that will be fostered by the Hub.