Chobani commits $1m to Idaho University to fund US’s ‘largest research dairy’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

The US's largest research dairy will be opened in Idaho / Pic: GettyImages BanksPhotos
The US's largest research dairy will be opened in Idaho / Pic: GettyImages BanksPhotos

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US dairy producer Chobani is gifting $1m to help support research into sustainable dairy being undertaken at the University of Idaho-led Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Idaho CAFE).

The company said the funds would be used to support construction of the nation’s 'largest' research dairy, where ‘advanced scientific research’ will be carried out to ensure ‘a sustainable future for US dairy’.

Located in Idaho’s Magic Valley, Idaho CAFE currently spans three counties with a 2,000-cow research dairy and 640-acre demonstration farm, a public outreach and education center and collaborative food science efforts developed in partnership with the College of Southern Idaho.

The new research dairy will be operated like a commercial farm and will host a variety of ongoing research experiments managed by University of Idaho faculty and staff. The dairy is designed to represent an average dairy in southern Idaho, so the research conducted at the site will be immediately applicable to dairy farms throughout the region. The Western US is a uniquely different region for producing dairy than the Midwest or Northeast, both areas that are already served by research dairies, the University noted.

Accordign to the plans, University of Idaho will break ground in June on the first construction phase of the $22.m research dairy which includes facilities to house the milking and nutrient management operations. Plans call for completion of the first phase of construction in 2023.

Chobani said its $1m donation reflects its ‘deep roots’ and ‘major manufacturing, research and development presence’ in Idaho’s Magic Valley as well as its ‘holistic and inclusive’ approach to sustainability.

“Sustainability is part of the fabric of Chobani. Caring for our people and animals, conserving resources, putting back what we take – this is how we operate, and this is how dairy farmers operate,”​ said Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani Founder and CEO.

“As more and more people – consumers, investors, and regulators - focus on sustainability, the dairy industry must be part of the conversation. The dairy industry has a deep history of commitment to and leadership in sustainability, which must be honored. This is why the University of Idaho’s leadership to establish this comprehensive and groundbreaking CAFE project is so important, and why we are so proud to support it.”

Research to support dairy’s carbon ambitions

Idaho is the third top dairy producing state in the nation. Dairy plays a critical role in the health of the state’s economy. But efficient agricultural production that also protects Idaho’s natural resources and the environment ‘requires research-based information’ to succeed, experts from the University of Idaho stressed.

“The Idaho CAFE project has been conceptualized for years but the need for this integrated research center is growing by the day,”​ said Michae Parrella, Dean for the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“The dairy industry nationwide has set aggressive goals to become carbon neutral and maximize water quality and quantity among other environmental sustainability goals in the very near future. Chobani’s investment in the Idaho CAFE research dairy highlights their partnership in this mission and pushes us closer to the finish line that is having this center operational and contributing to the cutting-edge research that develop environmental solutions for the dairy industry now and into the future.”

Idaho CAFE will conduct research and deliver education supporting a sustainable future for Idaho’s dairies, livestock operations, crop production and food processing industries. The center will link research, education, and outreach in a public-private partnership to support the state of Idaho, generate jobs and support economic progress, the University stated.

Chobani’s move to support the initiative attracted the recognition of State authorities. “Time and time again, Chobani has stepped up to invest in Idaho and the Magic Valley community. The Idaho CAFE project embraces the innovation happening across our agricultural sector,”​ said Idaho Governor Brad Little.

“Chobani's latest commitment to Idaho CAFE is an investment in Idaho’s economy and, importantly, Idaho’s current and future workforce. A strong dairy industry supports jobs and our Idaho way of life. We are grateful to the leadership and employees at Chobani for their continued pledge to excellence, which helps us in reaching our goal to make Idaho the place where our children and grandchildren choose to stay.”

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