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UWRF wants Dairy Innovation Hub to foster research

Falcon News Service

December 3, 2020

UW-River Falls is working to improve agriculture and dairy research through participation in the Dairy Innovation Hub program.

UW-River Falls is one of three universities in the state that participate in the Dairy Innovation Hub. The others are UW-Platteville and UW-Madison. The program’s main goal is to “educate students in dairy sciences with new skills while being innovative,” according to the program’s website.

The program has four major focus areas including land management and water resources, human health and nutrition enrichment, the ensuring of animal health and welfare, and the growth of farming business and communities.

The state of Wisconsin passed legislation in 2019 that allocates $8.8 million of funding for the program with UWRF receiving about 24% or $2.1 million. According to Professor Brenda Boetel, chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics, much of the money UWRF receives will be used to hire faculty and fund research fellowships. Boetel is a member of the innovation hub’s steering committee.

According to Boetel, UWRF got involved with the program to expand research in the agricultural field.

“River Falls is not known for being an agricultural research school despite being an agricultural-dependent school,” Boetel said. “The main reason UWRF got involved with the program was to increase the amount of research projects to build the name recognition up.”

Six research projects lasting one to three years were funded this academic year through UWRF’s Dairy Innovation Hub Faculty Research Fellowships.

UWRF, UW-Platteville and UW-Madison have the largest areas of agriculture focus in the state, according to Boetel.

“Having the two largest agricultural schools in the state participating in the program was one reason we joined the program,” Boetel said. “Being involved with the program also helps ‘build a bridge of connections’ between the schools.”

Boetel said she feels that the program is good for UWRF because it provides many benefits for both students and faculty.

“The research fellowships may spark interest for students,” Boetel explained. “It will also help teachers stay relevant in the classroom because the findings collected from the projects can be used in teaching.”

Boetel said “it’s an exciting opportunity and challenge” regarding the outlook of the program. The long-term goal of participating in the program would be seeing UWRF becoming known as an agricultural research school.

“It will benefit the UWRF community because the school’s brand name goes once research projects get completed,” Boetel said.