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Fundraising efforts begin for Dairy Pilot Plant renovation

February 14, 2014

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES), is raising money to undergo a Dairy Pilot Plant renovation that will begin in the summer of 2015.

The 30-year-old plant is due for a renovation because of the old equipment and it is not able to produce cheese and ice cream at the same time due to temperature differences. CAFES Dean Dale Gallenberg said he is excited about the opportunity to renovate the plant.

“The pilot plants were part of the food science addition which was originally built in 1982-83, so we have a set of facilities that are 30 years old. That’s not necessarily that old for some food processing entities, but much of the equipment is original and the configuration of the facility is original,” Gallenberg said. “It’s both time to modernize and become current, as well as update much of the equipment and enlarge the space that is dedicated to dairy product processing.”

Students form the wheels of Vintage No. 18 cheese, which is named for the 18th chancellor of UWRF.
Students form the wheels of Vintage No. 18 cheese, which is named for the 18th chancellor of UWRF. The cheese will be available for purchase in the Falcon Food Store in the Food Science building after Easter. (Maggie Sanders/Student Voice)

The space associated with the dairy processing is currently 1600 square feet, and by the end of the renovation process the space available to produce dairy products will be more than triple the size. The pricey renovation process has been made possible thanks to significant industry support for the project. Several industry members have come forward to help make this happen now, opposed to later.

“The total project will be $3.5 million,” Gallenberg said. “We are trying to raise $3 million from industry funding and the remaining will be provided by the University, the UW system, or by the state of Wisconsin.”

The money will go towards new equipment and piping, as well as basic renovation costs. The original footprint of the space of the pilot plants will not be changed.

“We are swapping spaces and doing minimal internal construction,” Gallenberg said.” There will be no additional space created. We are simply swapping spaces that already exist.”

CAFES is hoping to keep the dairy production moving during the renovation, but there will be a period where it is not business as usual because of moving cheese production to a larger space, away from the ice cream space.

“When the renovation is actually in progress, we will have people working in the plant but in phases and in a reduced capacity,” Gallenberg said. “Our goal is to not completely shut down, and if that happens then the actual shutdown will be a very short period of time. I don’t know if we can avoid going through a down period, but our goal is to minimize that while the other space is being renovated.”

Nick Larscheidt is currently the student supervisor at the Dairy Pilot Plant, and has worked there for almost 2.5 years. He said he is excited about the positive changes that the renovation to the plant will bring to their products as well as how it will benefit students.

“After the renovation, the plants capabilities will increase substantially and our products will show that. Not only will this benefit our customers, but it will also increase the academic side of the plant,” Larscheidt said. “One of the main reasons why we have the dairy plant is so that our students who are interested in dairy or food science-related majors can gain highly valuable experience working at the plant while gaining an education.”

The renovation of the plant will give CAFES the opportunity to increase outreach programs and workshops, as well as increase production coming out of the plants.

“There is a scheduled opening of the plant to happen in January, 2016,” Gallenberg said. “As of now, the primary activity in the short term is fundraising and to get the dollars to make it happen on time.”