Californian dairy businesses bag US$300,000 in first round of DBII funding

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Cheese Dairy Milk processing colostrum

The initiative provides grants and technical assistance to dairy businesses that focus on niché dairy products as well as packaging and processing innovation.

The California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC) has announced five California winners of Dairy Business Innovation Initiative grants by the Pacific Coast Coalition, the USDA-funded initiative hosted by Fresno State University supporting dairy product, process and packaging innovation.

The grants are the first in the US$1.8m DBII award from the USDA that created the Pacific Coast Coalition to support dairy businesses in California, Oregon and Washington in the development, production, marketing, and distribution of dairy products. These are supplemented by additional phases of funding totaling over US$20m announced in November by USDA.

A second round of funding, which will award around $4m in grants from US$50,000 to US$1m, will be announced later in January.

The winners include Capstone Ranch/Wonder Cow (Madera County), Central Coast Creamery (San Luis Obispo County), Foggy Bottom Boys (Humboldt County), Schoch Family Farmstead (Monterey County) and Weststeyn Dairy Farm (Glenn County).

John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory, commented: “The continued investment in dairy innovation at both the farm and plant level will help take our industry to the next level. And CMAB’s California Dairy Innovation Center was instrumental in this grant process and has resources to guide qualified California dairy businesses to take full advantage of these opportunities. We appreciate Fresno State University, host of the DBII grant. The dedication of Dr Carmen Licon and Dr S. Pheasant and the administrators and grant staff at Fresno State have moved this initiative forward in a significant way and created a smooth pathway for grants to start making a difference.”

DBII grants are available to those who operate a dairy farm or processing plant in California, with a focus on product, process, packaging innovation for dairy manufacturing.

Proposals can include requests for funding for qualified equipment, feasibility studies, innovation in packaging as well as training of the workforce. Applicants need to present invoices for approved projects to receive reimbursement from the program.

For more information, visit the initiative’s webpage​.

From high-pressure processing to cheese-aging equipment

Rob Diepersloot, founder of WonderCow, Inc., which specializes in bovine colostrum, said the award will allow the company to focus on pilot-scale testing of the feasibility and regulatory applications for a dairy-based beverage. Diepersloot said: “We started WonderCow in order to harness the functional ingredients that dairy has to offer and bring them to families in an easy and practical way. This grant will provide much support to accelerate our path to market and add considerable value; not only to our milk-based product, but more importantly, to the families who will benefit from the health factors it will bring.”

Reggie Jones, owner of the Paso Robles-based Central Coast Creamery, said that the grant will be a catalyst for a ‘chain of events that will benefit our employees and all of our dairy partners’. “The grant will enable us to purchase processing equipment to increase our production capacity by 40%, which translates to more income for our dairy partners,”​ Jones added. “This also has a significant impact on the local economy.”

Cody Nicholson Stratton, key partner of Foggy Bottom Boys applied for funding for equipment to manufacture a milk product from the farm’s milk. “Being able to create extra revenue from a portion of our total milk volume will ensure that our farm remains financially sustainable and operational,”​ Stratton said.

Schoch Dairy, a small-scale dairy producer from the central coast of California, received funding for manufacturing equipment for European-style cheese and butter. The organization’s Beau Schoch explained the award would ‘moves us from a local into a regional supplier of innovative farmstead dairy products as well as demonstrating the viability of a smaller-scale dairy operating profitably’.

Finally, Weststeyn Dairy Farm will use the funding to study the feasibility of high-pressure processing (HPP). Stephen Weststeyn, third generation farmer, said the dairy industry is ‘in desperate need of innovation’. “There is a window of opportunity here in the US to apply new technologies to milk and milk packaging to reset milk’s image. Applying the HPP process to milk gives the opportunity to not only to refresh milk’s image, but it also allows the opportunity to create a better, fresher tasting product, improve shelf life, and open milk to a new field of possibility and development with functional beverages.”

This article was edited on January 11, 2023 to remove mentions of the Nicasio Cheese Company as a grant recipient; the organization had been erroneously included in the media release circulated to the press including DairyReporter.

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