The University of Idaho's Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, known as Idaho CAFÉ, is set to become the nation's largest research dairy. The construction of the center has finally begun, after being delayed due to rising construction costs. The delay allowed for more bids from subcontractors to be generated, which helped align costs to meet the original proposed budget of $22.5 million.
Idaho CAFÉ will consist of a 2,000-cow research dairy and a 640-acre demonstration farm. There will also be an education center based in Jerome and a food science program developed with the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.
Michael P. Parrella, Dean for the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, said that the need for the integrated research center is growing by the day. "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,” he added.
Last summer, Chobani donated a significant amount of $1 million to the construction of the nation’s largest research dairy in Idaho's Magic Valley. According to the Chobani founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, sustainability is a 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," he said.
Rick Naerebout, CEO of Idaho Dairymen's Association, admitted that for dairy producers, sustainability is not always the most welcome term. However, he shared that the project is set up to help producers. “This Research Center is all built around how we help give our dairyman solutions. How do we help them accomplish these goals?” he said.
Design for the project's second phase is expected to be completed this summer, with the bid process occurring from September through November. Phase two will include manure handling facilities and lagoons, a maternity barn, a feed area, an office building, and structures to provide shade and wind protection for cows in a dry lot with several pens for research purposes.
Other companies have also contributed to this project, including Cargill and Redox Bio-Nutrients, which both announced $500,000 donations toward CAFÉ, bringing the total contributions from the industry for the project to almost $9 million.
Idaho CAFÉ's construction marks a significant step forward in the dairy industry's sustainability goals, which aims to maximize water quality and quantity and achieve carbon neutrality in the near future. With the support of major players in the industry, such as Chobani, Cargill, and Redox Bio-Nutrients, the project is set to provide dairy producers with solutions to help them accomplish their goals and contribute to the industry's growth and sustainability.