With a $750,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, UW-Madison’s Center for Dairy Research will create a pilot plant to help small businesses and entrepreneurs produce shelf-stable products that do not need refrigeration.
Gov. Tony Evers announced the funding Thursday at the 2019 Cheese Industry Conference at the Alliant Energy Center.
“It’s time to reinvest in the programs that foster development and innovation,” Evers said.
The Beverage Innovation Center will offer an aseptic processing and bottling system — how liquid products are packaged to not require refrigeration — to entrepreneurs on a more affordable, smaller scale. The pilot plant will also offer expertise from the Center for Dairy Research, licensed space and equipment.
Evers said innovations in the beverage industry are needed as Wisconsin dairy farmers face a milk surplus.
“This new initiative will be a collaborative effort that will provide small businesses, entrepreneurs, the resources they need to translate their great ideas and discoveries into commercial products,” Evers said.
In his remarks, Evers also noted his proposals to provide $150 million to the UW System that could be used for a dairy innovation hub. He has also proposed doubling the funding for dairy processor grants, issued by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, to $400,000 annually.
“Your work is critical to the success of Wisconsin’s agricultural economy,” Evers said to those attending the conference.
The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is also contributing an additional $250,000 to the new project.
Chad Vincent, CEO of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, said in a statement that the Center for Dairy Research is the “crown jewel of Wisconsin dairy” and that the partnership with WEDC will be “vital to industry growth” in Wisconsin.
Investing in the Center for Dairy Research is part of WEDC's long-term strategy to develop job growth in Wisconsin, according to the public-private agency that was founded under former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration. The beverage center will join several other WEDC-supported “centers of excellence,” including the Global Water Center and the Energy Innovation Center.
“The Beverage Innovation Center will serve as an important resource to entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout Wisconsin,” Vincent Rice, WEDC vice president of sector strategy development, said in a statement. "At a time when Wisconsin is experiencing a milk surplus, this center of excellence will provide dairy farmers with new avenues to pursue innovation in the beverage industry."