Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) said it entered a partnership that will provide access to a network of inventors and entrepreneurs tasked with providing marketplace solutions for industry challenges focused on health and sustainability.

Rosemont, Ill.-based DMI said it is partnering with Venture Winston Grants, which designed a competition where startup companies may apply for funding that will allow them to incorporate dairy into their concepts in one of four areas:

  • Health and nutrition: dairy products and services tailored to a person’s body type, behavior and preferences.
  • Biobased products: transforming byproducts from processing or waste into packaging, clothing or fuel.
  • “Smart” communities of the future: dairy powering cities where people live within 15 minutes of their job and other critical needs.
  • Regenerative agriculture: dairy farms as an environmental solution for other industries and sectors.

Dwyer Williams, chief transformation officer for DMI, said the Venture Winston Grants partnership is one aspect of the broader checkoff-led future planning strategy, Dairy Transformation. Dairy Transformation encompasses about 100 people, including farmers and leaders from Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy companies, joining others outside of dairy and futurists to examine ways dairy can remain viable in the future.

“Our mission is to build a preferred future for dairy,” Williams said. “We want to disrupt the marketplace before we’re disrupted, and that requires looking for unexpected partners outside of the dairy industry. This Venture Winston Grants partnership allows us to identify new ideas on what the next big thing is for dairy that will provide exciting opportunities for farmers.”

The process is underway to identify potential startups that are a match for DMI’s four focus areas. Karen Barnes, co-founder of Venture Winston Grants, expects to have the winners officially named in January 2022.

From there, they are required to relocate at least 51% of their operations to the grant program’s base in Winston Salem, N.C., for a year, DMI said. Winston Salem has built a reputation as an entrepreneurial ecosystem and can provide the startups with access to various resources and experts. Dairy farmers and DMI also will be engaged with the entrepreneurs as they build out solutions.

“This has to be dairy-centric,” Barnes said. “We want farmers evaluating ideas and testing hypothesis and co-creating solutions with these startups. We want this to be a groundswell up where we’re solving problems and creating potential revenue streams for the dairy industry. Technology without economic vitality will not transform the industry.”

Barnes said once a technology is completed, it could take two to three years to have concepts commercialized and in the marketplace. She said she is excited about the possibilities for dairy.

“I’m a 1,000% optimist, and when I look at the sectors where DMI is concentrating, I see great promise,” Barnes said. “What excites me is this is all coming together as a holistic picture. It’s not about solving just one problem. It’s about taking a 360-degree approach, and that’s how you solve problems on a broad scale.”

Williams said Venture Winston Grants is a great example of the potential Dairy Transformation holds for the industry.

“We’re looking for other partnerships to take us further and faster into the future,” she said. “There are many other sectors and industries that can bring new resources and thinking to the table. The possibilities are huge for dairy if we’re willing to think differently.”

To learn more about the dairy checkoff, visit www.usdairy.com.