DBIA awards $1M in dairy industry impact grants

Wisconsin State Farmer

Four Wisconsin agribusinesses will share in a $1 million grant The Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA), a partnership between the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), has announced the Midwest dairy companies that, through a competitive review process, will be receiving a combined $1 million in Dairy Industry Impact grants.  

Cheesemaker George Crave holds ciliegine (cherry-sized balls) of fresh mozzarella, the signature cheese produced at the family's on-site cheese plant, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese. The Waterloo, Wisconsin family business will share in a $1 million grant offered by the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance.

Funded by the USDA, the Dairy Industry Impact grant program supports medium to large dairy companies that develop an innovative idea or tackle a challenge with the potential to advance the dairy industry. The grant program awards reimbursable grants of up to $250,000 for USDA-eligible expenses related to a company’s proposed project. DBIA has selected six projects that can positively impact the dairy industry. As part of the Dairy Industry Impact program, grant recipients must be willing to share results of their project.  

 “These grants could assist our industry with exploring new concepts such as sustainable packaging, tracking methods to connect consumers directly to the farm and cheese plant, reducing food waste, and equipment to improve fines recovery from soft cheese types,” said CDR Director John Lucey in a news release.  

  WCMA Executive Director John Umhoefer said the alliance supports projects designed to spur new growth and boost profitability not just for individual businesses, but for the greater dairy industry.

"WCMA is pleased to support farmers, manufacturers, processors in their efforts to strengthen dairy’s future,” he said   

  This is the second round of Dairy Industry Impact grants awarded by DBIA. In 2021, DBIA distributed reimbursable grants totaling $600,000 to four companies and cooperatives.   

 DBIA is supported by funding from the USDA and was created in the 2018 federal Farm Bill. In addition to the Dairy Industry Impact grant, the DBIA administers Dairy Business Builder grants to support small to medium size dairy enterprises and provides extensive online resources to support dairy businesses through webinars and technical assistance.  

2022 Dairy Industry Impact grant recipients  

Cedar Grove Cheese – This Plain, Wisconsin business is working to connect a tracking system to a database of farmer stories, images, and any certification documents the farms use to document the conservation practices on their farms. This same system can be used to track and aggregate the farms’ environmental impacts including carbon sequestration, water usage, animal welfare practices, and make that information available to consumers.   

 Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese – This third generation operation in Waterloo, Wisconsin  is continuing their commitment to sustainable leadership. Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese is researching and implementing new fresh mozzarella packaging with the goal of increasing shelf life, reducing costs, and converting to new sustainable packaging. Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese is currently investigating a range of technical and marketing issues as they consider bringing innovative packaging to market.   

   CROPP Cooperative – Based in the rolling terrain of southwest Wisconsin, CROPP Cooperative of La Farge, Wisconsin  is evaluating micro-fixing production processes, at scale, with a view toward improving product quality and inventory management. The technology has the potential to allow dairy plants to process milk to meet market demand without sacrificing operational efficiency.    

Fromage Spa – Reducing food waste is a key deliverable for this project submitted by Fromage Spa of Green Bay, Wisconsin. The company is evaluating machinery to recycle packaged butter in an efficient and sanitary fashion, thereby allowing them to reclaim lost profit margins and reduce the amount of edible product going to waste. If tests prove satisfactory, the process would be of benefit to both large- and small-scale manufacturers. 

  Specialty Cheese Co. – Specialty Cheese has been developing a novel method of separating curd from whey that would be capable of high separation rates while maintaining the integrity of weak or flocculated cheese curds. Based on preliminary results, this Reeseville, Wisconsin company is confident this method can be commercialized for Paneer cheese and will very likely work for ricotta and all cheeses with soft curd. This project will work to validate and commercialize this process.   

Redhead Creamery – The partners of Redhead Creamery, LLC in Brooten, Minnesota  seek to open up entry for artisan cheesemakers into the artisan alcohol market. Converting dairy streams, such as whey, into a value-added alcohol typically requires complex equipment normally found in larger plants. Redhead Creamery is evaluating a way to make the process accessible to smaller processors.