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CDR Receives Federal Grant to Scale Up Innovative Technologies to Utilize Dairy Co-Products

MADISON – The Center for Dairy Research (CDR) is one of 60 organizations, and the only one in Wisconsin or in the food industry, to receive a “Build to Scale” grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

The grant awards $1.2M to CDR to support inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses that are developing methods to utilize dairy co-products, like permeate and acid whey, and convert them into higher value products like bioplastics, organic acids, and food ingredients. In addition, partner organizations have matched funds or provided in-kind support totaling another $1.2M in cash or in-kind value.

The Build to Scale (B2S) grant program will allow CDR to select innovative technologies from anywhere in the U.S. that are ready to be scaled up. Successful applicants will bring their promising technologies to CDR’s world class pilot plant where they will have access to equipment and staff expertise to scale up their technology so that it can be implemented in the dairy industry.

The dairy industry produces large volumes of dairy co-products that are often used in low-value applications, such as, animal feed or disposed of via land spreading or wastewater treatment plants. Promising technologies are emerging that could provide more sustainable and higher value uses for these dairy co-products.

“It’s important for us to try to use every drop of milk that is produced by our cows and to strive to not waste anything,” said CDR Director Dr. John Lucey. “The dairy industry makes lots of high-quality products like cheese, but it is the remaining co-product materials, like whey, that some manufacturers look at as a waste material that could instead be the starting material for a completely new industry, such as, the production of green chemicals and value-added food components.”

A number of Wisconsin-based organizations are joining in on this effort and are providing matching support or in-kind funds. These organizations include: Discovery to Product (D2P), the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW). The additional support from these organizations will help accelerate the work of the inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses who are selected.

Above and beyond these four major partners, there are 23 other collaborating organizations from across the state and country. These include all nine regional economic development agencies in Wisconsin; the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; WiSys®; the Wisconsin Technology Council; Wisconsin technical colleges; other Wisconsin research institutes and foundations; and private capital partners like angel and venture capital funds.

As part of the grant, CDR will provide access to its recently opened pilot plant for the development of these technologies by the selected applicants. In addition to CDR’s pilot plant, the Center is in the process of acquiring a 400L bioreactor, which will play a key role in helping to develop and scale up the biofermentation technology necessary to convert dairy co-products into higher value green chemicals. There will also be a technical workforce component to this program, making sure future labor is aware of the opportunities and skills needed for these emerging industrial biorefinery jobs.

The EDA Build to Scale grant is the latest effort by CDR to provide support for startups and accelerate new dairy technologies. In 2012, CDR received an innovation award from EDA, which led to CDR’s TURBO program. TURBO is CDR’s not-for-profit, business accelerator program that supports entrepreneurs and small companies developing new, innovative foods or beverages that contain a dairy ingredient.

Then, in 2019, CDR and the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association secured funding for the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA), which assists dairy farmers and dairy processors in creating new revenue streams through farm diversification, grant funding and the creation of value-added dairy food and beverage products.

The EDA BS2 grant will help CDR continue this work and provide opportunities to inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses that have promising technologies to utilize dairy co-products. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, contact CDR at

CDR will be posting a solicitation calling for interested applicants to apply. Watch for news from CDR or visit the website for updates –

The Center for Dairy Research, located at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences, is dedicated to supporting the U.S. dairy industry through innovative research, technical support, training and education.

Posted 11/16/2023