TWIN FALLS, IDAHO — Yogurt maker Chobani pledged to help the construction of the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, gifting $1 million for the project.
The University of Idaho facility and grounds will become the largest research dairy in the country. Chobani stated the donation was made to help advance scientific research and ensure a sustainable future for the US dairy industry.
Dubbed the Idaho CAFE, the center will feature not only a research dairy and 640-acre demonstration farm, but also a public outreach and education center and spaces dedicated to collaborative food science. In total, the Idaho CAFE will span three counties in the state’s Magic Valley region.
Chobani founder and chief executive officer Hamdi Ulukaya said sustainability is part of the company's fabric.
“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,” Ulukaya said. “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.”
Once the Idaho CAFE is up and running, it will be a center for research and deliver education to support sustainability for the state’s dairies, livestock operations, crop production and food processing industries. The center was conceptualized to link research, education and outreach, as well as generate jobs and bolster the state’s economy.
Michael P. Parrella, dean of the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Science, said the need for the 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,” Parrella said. “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.”
University of Idaho faculty and staff will be involved with ongoing research and experiments at the dairy, which will operate like a commercial farm. Plans for the dairy involve having it represent an average dairy in southern Idaho, in order to make the research applicable to the region.
Groundbreaking for the first phase of construction for the $22.5 million Idaho CAFE is scheduled for June. The first round of construction is slated to conclude in 2023.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little praised Chobani for investing in the state and its dairy industry.
“The Idaho CAFE project embraces the innovation happening across our agricultural sector,” Little said. “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.”