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CAFE Set To Be Largest Sustainable Research Dairy In U.S.

The dairy industry is set to advance sustainable practices to ensure a bright future. A research complex, the Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (CAFE), is being built in partnership with the University of Idaho (U of I). Upon completion, CAFE will be a 640-acre, 2,000-cow complex spanning three different counties and be the largest research complex in the nation. 

CAFE will run just like a commercial operation and is designed to represent the conditions of an average dairy farm in southern Idaho. The project, which will be located in Magic Valley, ID, broke ground in June; and in September, U of I  approved $23 million to buy land central to the milking infrastructure. The facility will begin milking cows upon the completion of phase one of construction, projected for 2023.

The research will cover various areas, including animal health, water use, and production, emissions control, and manure. All findings made at the facility will have an immediate impact and application in the surrounding Western dairy farms, as the community is unique from those in the Midwest or Central U.S.

Photo Courtesy Dan Ordze

“The Idaho CAFE project has been conceptualized for years, but the need for this integrated research center is growing by the day,” added Michael P. Parrella, dean of U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “The dairy industry nationwide has set aggressive goals to become carbon neutral and maximize water quality and quantity, among other environmental sustainability goals in the very near future.” 

The yogurt giant Chobani stepped up in May and contributed $1 million toward the construction and development of the $22.5 million research dairy.

“Sustainability is part of the fabric of Chobani. Caring for our people and animals, conserving resources, putting back what we take — this is how we operate, and this is how dairy farmers operate,” remarked Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani CEO and founder. “As more and more people — consumers, investors, and regulators focus on sustainability, the dairy industry must be part of the conversation. The dairy industry has a deep history of commitment to and leadership in sustainability, which must be honored.”

Photo Courtesy Megumi Nachev

“Chobani’s investment in the Idaho CAFE research dairy highlights their partnership in this mission and pushes us closer to the finish line that is having this center operational and contributing to the cutting-edge research that develops environmental solutions for the dairy industry now and into the future,” Parrella said

The development of CAFE at U of I represents openness toward a sticking point that dairy farmers previously held. 

‘“The reality for our dairy producers that I represent is sustainability honestly is not always the most welcome term because typically the expectation that they must once again figure out how to do more with less. That’s the pressure that our dairy producers feel,” said Rick Naerebout, the CEO of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. “This Research Center is all built around how we help give our dairyman solutions.”


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