MADISON, WI (SPECTRUM NEWS) — The University of Wisconsin Dairy Innovation Hub is entering its second year after the state legislature passed a bill funding the research operation in 2019. 

The Hub is spread out between three University of Wisconsin campuses — Madison, Platteville, and River Falls — and receives $7.8 million annually for research projects aimed at improving dairy operations.

“There's definitely an emphasis on studying things that people can put into practice right away,” said Maria Woldt, Dairy Innovation Hub Program Manager.

Woldt said the innovation hub reminds people research is generally a long-term investment. They do try to pick projects that can deliver results in one to two years.

The research focuses on four main areas: Stewarding land and water resources, Enriching human health and nutrition, Ensuring animal health and welfare, Growing farm businesses and communities.

The Hub hosted its first Dairy Summit in November. It did so virtually because of coronavirus, which Woldt said had its advantages.

“actually the virtual format probably afforded us the opportunity to reach a much larger audience,” Woldt said.

The summit featured updates on research projects and panel discussions with industry stakeholders.

“As a dairy farmer and someone who has the privilege of working with and for dairy farmers it's even doubly exciting to see the Dairy Innovation Hub hit the ground and instantly start working for us,” said Shelly Mayer, executive director of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

Mayer moderated one of the panel discussions — one with all dairy farmers. They talked about research topics they'd like to see scientists look into.

“We've gotten some feedback from researchers that it was basically like a focus group that they didn't have to organize because they were able to hear from diverse farmers,” Woldt said.

The entire Dairy Summit is available online. Researchers at the three UW universities are submitting project proposals to the Innovation Hub now for 2021. Dairy is a $45 billion dollar industry in Wisconsin.