Chobani LLC, New Berlin, N.Y., announced a $1 million gift to the University of Idaho-led Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Idaho CAFE) to help fund construction of the nation’s largest research dairy and advance scientific research to ensure a sustainable future for the U.S. dairy industry.

With deep roots and a major manufacturing, research and development presence in Idaho’s Magic Valley, Chobani has long been committed to taking a holistic and inclusive approach to sustainability, especially within the dairy industry.

 “Sustainability is part of the fabric of Chobani,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani’s founder and CEO. “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. 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,” he continued. “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.”

 Located in Idaho’s Magic Valley, Idaho CAFE spans three counties with a 2,000-cow research dairy and a 640-acre demonstration farm in Rupert, a public outreach and education center in Jerome and collaborative food science efforts developed in partnership with the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, Chobani said.

As the third top dairy producing state in the nation, Idaho’s dairy industry plays a critical role in the health of the state’s economy. But efficient agricultural production that also protects Idaho’s natural resources and the environment requires research-based information to succeed, Chobani said.

“The Idaho CAFE project has been conceptualized for years, but the need for this integrated research center is growing by the day,” said Michael P. Parrella, dean of the University of Idaho (U of I) College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “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. 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.”

Idaho CAFE will conduct research and deliver education that will support a sustainable future for Idaho’s dairies, livestock operations, crop production and food processing industries, Chobani said. The center will link research, education and outreach in a public-private partnership to support the state of Idaho, generate jobs and support economic progress.

“Time and time again, Chobani has stepped up to invest in Idaho and the Magic Valley community. The Idaho CAFE project embraces the innovation happening across our agricultural sector,” said Idaho Governor Brad Little.  “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,” he added. “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.”

The research dairy will be operated like a commercial farm and will host a variety of ongoing research experiments managed by University of Idaho faculty and staff. The dairy is designed to represent an average dairy in southern Idaho, so the research conducted at the site will be immediately applicable to dairy farms in Idaho and throughout the region, Chobani said.

U of I will break ground in June on the first construction phase of the $22.5 million research dairy, which includes facilities to house the milking and nutrient management operations, Chobani said. Plans call for completion of the first phase of construction in 2023 when the University of Idaho will begin milking cows at the Rupert location.