The California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC) has announced six California winners of Dairy Business Innovation Initiative grants by the Pacific Coast Coalition, the USDA-funded initiative hosted by Fresno State University supporting dairy product, process and packaging innovation.
The grants are the first in the US$1.8m DBII award from the USDA that created the Pacific Coast Coalition to support dairy businesses in California, Oregon and Washington in the development, production, marketing, and distribution of dairy products. These are supplemented by additional phases of funding totaling over US$20m announced in November by USDA.
A second round of funding, which will award around $4m in grants from $50,000 to $1m, will be announced later in January.
The winners include Capstone Ranch/Wonder Cow (Madera County), Central Coast Creamery (San Luis Obispo County), Foggy Bottom Boys (Humboldt County), Nicasio Cheese Company (Marin County), Schoch Family Farmstead (Monterey County) and Weststeyn Dairy Farm (Glenn County).
John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory, commented: “The continued investment in dairy innovation at both the farm and plant level will help take our industry to the next level. And CMAB’s California Dairy Innovation Center was instrumental in this grant process and has resources to guide qualified California dairy businesses to take full advantage of these opportunities. We appreciate Fresno State University, host of the DBII grant. The dedication of Dr Carmen Licon and Dr S. Pheasant and the administrators and grant staff at Fresno State have moved this initiative forward in a significant way and created a smooth path for grants to start making a difference.”
DBII grants are available to those who operate a dairy farm or processing plant in California, with a focus on product, process, packaging innovation for dairy manufacturing.
Proposals can include requests for funding for qualified equipment, feasibility studies, innovation in packaging as well as training of the workforce. Applicants need to present invoices for approved projects to receive reimbursement from the program.
For more information, visit the initiative’s webpage.
From high-pressure processing to cheese-aging equipment
Rob Diepersloot, founder of WonderCow, Inc., which specializes in bovine colostrum, said the award will allow the company to focus on pilot-scale testing of the feasibility and regulatory applications for a dairy-based beverage. Diepersloot said: “We started WonderCow in order to harness the functional ingredients that dairy has to offer and bring them to families in an easy and practical way. This grant will provide much support to accelerate our path to the market and add considerable value; not only to our milk-based product, but more importantly, to the families who will benefit from the health factors it will bring.”
Reggie Jones, owner of the Paso Robles-based Central Coast Creamery, said that the grant will be a catalyst for a ‘chain of events that will benefit our employees and all of our dairy partners’. “The grant will enable us to purchase processing equipment to increase our production capacity by 40%, which translates to more income for our dairy partners,”Jones added. “This also has a significant impact on the local economy.”
Cody Nicholson Stratton, key partner of Foggy Bottom Boys, applied for funding for equipment to manufacture a milk product from the farm’s milk. “Being able to create extra revenue from a portion of our total milk volume will ensure that our farm remains financially sustainable and operational,”Stratton said.
Meanwhile, the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company will use the funding to purchase cheese aging equipment. Managing partner of operations, Scott Lafranchi, said: “We represent third-generation dairy farmers who started the dairy in 1919. We began the organic cheese operation in 2010 to help the dairy weather the ups and downs of the dairy business by making a value-added product. We have a store attached to our creamery and plan on adding guided cheese tastings and tours. The grant will allow us to achieve the scale and consistency required by global customers.”
Schoch Dairy, a small-scale dairy producer from the central coast of California, received funding for manufacturing equipment for European-style cheese and butter. The organization’s Beau Schoch explained the award would ‘moves us from a local into a regional supplier of innovative farmstead dairy products as well as demonstrating the viability of a smaller-scale dairy operating profitably’.
Finally, Weststein Dairy Farm will use the funding to study the feasibility of high-pressure processing (HPP). Stephen Weststeyn, third generation farmer, said the dairy industry is ‘in desperate need of innovation’. “There is a window of opportunity here in the US to apply new technologies to milk and milk packaging to reset milk’s image. Applying the HPP process to milk gives the opportunity to not only refresh milk’s image, but it also allows the opportunity to create a better, fresher tasting product, improve shelf life, and open milk to a new field of possibility and development with functional beverages. .”