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Hub works to engage students

During the 2020 fall semester, the University of Wisconsin-Dairy Innovation Hub partnered with Hyper Innovation to host a student challenge. The competition’s purpose was to harness the creativity of University of Wisconsin-System undergraduates to discover novel solutions for the dairy community. Student projects focused on one of three challenges based on recommendations from the Dairy Taskforce 2.0.

  • Enhancing the shelf-life of Wisconsin dairy products
  • Encouraging dairy-product consumption by Wisconsin students
  • Utilizing internet of things or robotic technologies to enhance operations

A panel of industry leaders selected teams for awards in a number of categories.

  • Best of focus area enhancing the shelf-life of Wisconsin dairy products – Extending Shelf-Life of Yogurt Using Natural Bio-Actives
  • Best of focus area encouraging dairy consumption by Wisconsin students – Encouraging Dairy Consumption Through Online Gaming
  • Best of focus area utilizing internet of things or robotic technologies to minimize labor or enhance farm operations – Temperature Monitoring through Non-Invasive Septum Ring
  • Most creative – Ice-cold Milk Pouches
  • Most improved desirability, feasibility, viability score – Computer Vision System for Heat Detection
  • Best presentation –Improving Packaging for School Meal Programs
  • Most sustainable – Extending Shelf-Life of Yogurt Using Natural Bio-Actives
  • Best plan of execution – Extending Shelf-Life of Yogurt Using Natural Bio-Actives
  • Voters’ choice from the Dairy Summit – Ice-cold Milk Pouches

Through online hack-a-thons, students working in teams generated ideas and assessed viability of potential solutions before building proofs of concept. Professional experts worked with student teams throughout the challenge to ensure desirability and feasibility of the solutions.

The Dairy Innovation Hub Student Challenge was open to all students at UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls. Visit and search for "student dairy challenge" for more information. 

Partnership to combat hunger

The dairy checkoff-funded GENYOUth organization and Campbell’s Chunky recently launched an e-sports initiative intended to raise money for the COVID-19 Emergency School Meal Delivery Fund.

The “Chunky Million Meals Challenge Madden NFL 21 presented by Target” will be played in "EA SPORTS Madden NFL 21." The competition has sponsorship support from the checkoff’s Undeniably Dairy campaign. It also has support from the National Football League, CSL Esports, Doritos and Bose.

National Football League players who serve as Fuel Up to Play 60 ambassadors will participate along with Madden National Football League professionals.

Undeniably Dairy will share messages about dairy and bring awareness to farmers’ commitment to addressing hunger. The “Raising Gallons” video, which Dairy Management Inc. created in partnership with state and regional checkoff organizations, will be part of the content.

The tournament began Dec. 19. Viewers will be encouraged to donate to GENYOUth to help tackle food insecurity. Visit to donate or text MEALS to 20222 for a one-time $25 donation. Visit and for more information.

Dairy startup wins New York competition

Slate Milk, based in Boston, recently earned first place in NYS MilkLaunch, a new startup competition focused on accelerating innovation for dairy products in New York State. MilkLaunch is operated by VentureFuel in collaboration with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York Dairy Promotion Order Advisory Board.

Slate was awarded $150,000 worth of support to accelerate its line of reduced-sugar, high-protein lactose-free milk. The company developed a vanilla flavor specifically for the competition. Three other companies were finalists in the competition.

  • Karviva produces Gold Sage, a wellness drink featuring functional ingredients such as turmeric infused into milk.
  • Superfrau produces an Alpine-inspired electrolyte elixir. It is made by upcycling surplus whey and infusing it with flavors such as cucumber lime, lemon elderflower and peach mango. It’s a protein- and nutrient-packed recovery drink.
  • Pursue Happiness produces Cold Brew Cowffee, a dairy-based, shelf-stable coffee with high protein, reduced sugar and added conjugated linoleic acid – CLA Plus – for health benefits.

The semi-finalists each received $15,000 worth of support to develop a prototype. They received resources such as graphic design, laboratory or kitchen time, and mentorship from marketing, packaging and distribution experts from companies. Visit and search for "dairy promotion order" and for more information.

Partners to accelerate food innovations

DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences is accelerating its strategy to prepare food and beverage manufacturers for fast-developing trends and disruptive change. DuPont is a partner in Plug and Play’s Food and Beverage program in California’s Silicon Valley.

Plug and Play will open a new location in Chicago. DuPont will be a founding partner of the new office with access to emerging technologies. The source of new technologies are startup companies seeking support from corporate partners to develop and scale their business. By acting as an investor and mentor DuPont will accelerate their development and bring their capabilities to market faster.

Birgitte Borch, global marketing leader in food and beverages for DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences, said disruptive change can take the established food industry by surprise. Plant-based meat and dairy offerings have proliferated, fueled by startups that are closing the gaps with traditional products.

As a founding partner of the Plug and Play program, DuPont will expand its focus in biotechnology, personalized nutrition, food safety, functional ingredients, sustainability and market analytics, she said.

Plug and Play operates more than 60 accelerators worldwide. It supported in 2019 more than 1,450 startups. Its food and beverage program was launched in 2017. The shortlist of startups for 2021 has been created. The DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences food and beverage platform expects to have established open innovation agreements by the middle of next year. Visit and for more information. 

Dairy promoter honored

The National Dairy Promotion and Research Board recently named Mike Kruger as the 2020 recipient of the Richard E. Lyng Award for his contributions and distinguished service to dairy promotion. Kruger is the former CEO of Midwest Dairy, which represents 5,800 farmers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.

The award is named for former U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Richard Lyng, who helped to implement policies leading to the establishment of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board more than 35 years ago. The award honors leaders who have made a significant contribution to dairy promotion that benefits the entire community.

Kruger played a role in unifying dairy-promotion organizations at the regional level and streamlined communications between Midwest Dairy and other state, regional and national dairy-promotion organizations.

He brought together in 1993 dairy-checkoff organizations in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota to form the American Dairy Association and the Dairy Council of the upper Midwest. He led the consolidation of that organization in 2000 with the then Midland Dairy Association, which included Iowa, Missouri and eastern Kansas. Later regions were added from Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma, along with Illinois and Nebraska. Through the formation of what has become Midwest Dairy, Kruger championed innovation and increased resource efficiencies, taking a unified approach to follow and promote milk in its various markets, the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board stated.

Kruger helped form the Minnesota Dairy Leaders Roundtable, which led to the “Milk and Main Street” campaign highlighting dairy’s economic contribution to Minnesota. It was a precursor to the “Path Forward” campaign, which sought to enhance the region’s dairy economic-development plans. It showcased the value of a strong, vibrant dairy industry.

He also partnered with academic and philanthropic organizations to benefit dairy farmers. That included relationships that resulted in the first dairy-economist position at the University of Minnesota and outreach with Share Our Strength and Hunger Free Minnesota.

As part of the Richard E. Lyng Award, the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board will contribute $2,500 in Kruger’s name to the Midwest Dairy Association scholarship fund for students in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences at the University of Minnesota. The scholarship is for full-time undergraduates, with a preference for Minnesota students pursuing studies in dairy-product economics and marketing, dairy-food nutrition science and dairy processing. Visit for more information.

Digester use-evaluation grants awarded

The Pro-Dairy program at Cornell University recently was awarded three grants to evaluate the use of methane digesters.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has asked the Cornell program leaders to determine the advantages and challenges of using dairy-farm anaerobic digesters to process food waste to reduce carbon emissions and create renewable energy while recycling nutrients. An outreach program will be developed to target dairy farms with anaerobic digesters, farms that could benefit from anaerobic digesters, and food-waste producers that might be impacted by legislation to be implemented in January 2022.

Pro-Dairy is working with other engineers at Cornell to determine the economic and technical feasibility of a manure and food-waste processing system to maximize the energy and minimize the environmental impact of the materials. That will involve further development of a dairy manure- and co-digestion anaerobic digester model that can be used independently.

The work complements a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant, “Strategies to Maximize Potential Value of On-Farm Anaerobic Digestion.” The project identifies several different methods that can be improved or that the revenue from biogas as renewable nature gas or renewable electricity can be enhanced. Visit for more information. 

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