Dairy product research center heading for multi-million dollar update

2013-06-12T11:52:00Z 2013-06-14T14:08:25Z Dairy product research center heading for multi-million dollar updateBy Leanna Leverich Editorial Intern Agri-View
June 12, 2013 11:52 am  • 

Unity and support from the dairy industry have made it possible for a multi-million dollar renovation and update at UW-Madison’s Center for Dairy Research.

Directors of the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) have announced that the dairy plant and CDR, in Babcock Dairy Hall, will be remodeled and expanded to provide proper research and instruction facilities for the dairy industry.

The CDR exceeded its fundraising goal for the project, thanks to the generous support from the industry and funds matched by the government. Over 100 companies donated at least $10,000 dollars to the project, and the budget goal, $16 million of privately raised funds, was met in about a year.

“The dairy industry came together so quickly to raise the money,” says Dr. John Lucey, CDR’s director and a Professor of Food Science at UW-Madison. “But it’s not just the money. It’s the fact that we have a large number of people that came together. That says a lot about our industry.”

CDR, located in the center of UW-Madison’s agricultural campus, is a research station placed within a licensed dairy plant, primarily studying the function, flavor, and physical properties of cheese and other dairy products.

The dairy plant itself, Babcock, serves as a full production facility containing a store with dairy products, such as Babcock ice cream, cheeses, and milk, for sale to students and campus visitors.

The project will be broken into two parts: the remodel of the existing dairy plant area, and an addition to Babcock Hall for CDR activity.

Overall, the project will total 60,000 square feet. Some of the square footage will go towards the remodel of the dairy plant, and the remaining square footage will go towards the addition, which is expected to be 30,000 to 40,000 square feet.

The addition to Babcock Hall will be multi-floor, expanding into a parking area west of the building between Babcock Hall and the Stock Pavilion. The building is expected to have three floors and a basement to house all CDR activities.

The Babcock Dairy Plant was originally designed in the late 1940s, and since it was opened in 1951, the plant has not been significantly modernized. Over 25 years ago, CDR was established within the dairy plant and has made the building even busier.

With over 30 expert staff members, CDR serves as more than just a research facility, offering training and education for industry members and students. More than 20 short courses are available to the industry on a variety of topics, such as how to make cheese, utilization and functionality of different ingredients, and cultured products, are just a few of the topics.

CDR also works with more than 100 individual companies each year. “We’re not building a facility for pure academic research. It’s actually going to be heavily used by the industry,” Lucey explains.

With private companies, CDR often works as a partner to teach and train on subjects such as the production quality or improving production utilizing new technology.

Many companies also work with CDR to accomplish product development in the pilot plant areas. Because of CDR’s existence, dairy companies can avoid using their own production facilities, where the equipment can be oversized and costly to operate, to complete small-scale product research.

Although the facility has much to offer now, CDR has many shortcomings due to space limitations and the facility’s age.

Workspace tends to be the biggest issue for CDR and the dairy plant. Not only are the teaching spaces too small, but the research areas are also crammed.

“We’ve been helping companies for a number of years with Greek yogurt, and actually, we do all of our culture products amidst cheese production and other dairy ingredient research,” Lucey says. “We are so limited by the fact that we don’t have a specific space for it.”

In addition, equipment needed for specialty products, like Greek yogurt, is often outdated or unavailable at the plant. Purchasing the equipment would be no use; there is no free space in the building and with the demand for these specialty products growing, updating is necessary.

Until the expansion is complete CDR depends on the goodwill of some of the industry’s companies to borrow space, especially for ripening rooms.

Though some equipment may be lacking, the staff is still recognized for its outstanding work, shown through the popularity of the Center’s programs. The addition will enable CDR to add new research areas specifically for cheese, specialty cheese and culture products, such as Greek yogurt. New state of the art equipment and facilities will be added to both the addition and the remodeled area for both research and training.

The class wait list issue that the program currently faces will be eliminated with a new auditorium specifically for the short course and industry training programs.

State of the art research kitchens will also be added to the new facility for both companies and education programs.

“We want to make sure we’ve looked after the industry educational part as well as put in the needed research areas,” Dr. Lucey explains.

This project will add the required workspace and equipment that researchers need to complete new and in-depth tests and trials.

While there are other research centers in the U.S. similar to the CDR, the CDR is the only center that is just one site. For example, the Midwest center has a number of different universities and states involved. There are programs in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and other states as well, but spread out over different sites.

“We are just one entity. We’re just the Wisconsin Center,” Dr. Lucey says. “But we are also by far the largest one, and because of our size and profile, we cover every major area of research.”

In addition, CDR also has the largest training program for any university or any program in the U.S. and is recognized as the top educational training program in the country.

Because of the size of the program at CDR, the goal of the project is to be recognized as the national center of dairy research. And based on the number of industry supporters from across the U.S., Dr. Lucey believes it is a plausible outcome and the facility will be on par with other international centers.

The project has been a collaborated effort between state government, UW-Madison, and the industry as a whole.

“It’s a great example of the three all working together and becoming a team to reach a goal – building a world class facility,” Dr. Lucey says, “and saying let’s build it here at the University and share it, is something special. That just says something about our dairy industry. The fact that dairy companies, that you might say are competitors, all came together to support this. It’s just amazing.”

With the budget met, the project is estimated to be completed in late 2017 with construction starting in early 2015. The directors of the project plan to keep Babcock Hall and Dairy Store open for the majority of construction.

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