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Dairy NutriSols Consortium awarded $5M to advance dairy processing and feed the world

Boise State University has been selected to lead one of seven multidisciplinary teams from across the US to combat food and nutrition insecurity with a three-year award of $5 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Convergence Accelerator’s Track J: Food & Nutrition Security program.

This Phase 2 award will sponsor the development of the Dairy NutriSols Consortium, to serve as a national resource with the vision to modernize dairy processing in order to feed a hungry world.

Led by Chemistry Professor and Director of the Food and Dairy Innovation Center, Owen McDougal, Dairy NutriSols blends the unique expertise and capabilities of Boise State University with the University of Idaho, Utah State University, University of Minnesota, Glanbia Nutritionals (a global nutrition leader), Chobani (the number one provider of Greek yogurt in the world), Daisy Brand (the number one supplier of sour cream and cottage cheese in the United States), Food Physics (a Boise-based pulsed-electric field supplier), Agropur USA (the number one producer of alpha-lactalbumin, the primary component in infant formulas), Dairy West (organization representing dairy farm families in Idaho and Utah), and Ceres Dairy Risk Management.

“Our partners are key to having made the compelling case for this national investment,” said McDougal. “We will completely transform fluid milk into functional ingredients that serve as affordable building blocks for the next generation of infant formulas, protein bars, ready-to-mix drink powders, and nutrition products for the elderly.”

Milk is a nutrient-dense powerhouse that contains 13 essential macro and micronutrients that contribute to muscle, bone, brain development, and more. Dairy NutriSols will utilize the power of artificial intelligence software and advanced manufacturing pulsed electric field and extruder technology to transform fluid milk into ingredients for nutrient-dense products to feed a hungry world.

The Dairy NutriSols consortium will seek to further increase the efficiency of traditional dairy processing methods by catalyzing the adoption of pioneering software and advanced manufacturing technologies to increase production capacity of high-quality nutritious ingredients and dairy products.

In the process, Dairy NutriSols will:

  • Catalyze technology and artificial intelligence adoption by industry partners who are the pioneers for change at a scale that will impact global food and nutrition security
  • Advance dairy processing in areas such as: in-line monitoring of dairy proteins; implementing pulsed-electric fields to efficiently produce dairy protein powders; developing extruder technology to provide the mechanisms to combine protein powder with recovered upcycled minerals
  • Inspire the next generation of employees to pursue promising dairy industry careers back in their rural home communities
  • Address the shortage of skilled workers in the dairy industry by creating an employee pipeline for more than 1,000 participants annually
  • Reach K-12 children in rural communities through the implementation of microbiology and nutrition programs
  • Engage minority and first-generation students college and university students in industry-priority research projects
  • Provide employee skill certification to enable upward mobility for existing food and dairy process workers

“Advancing food and nutrition security is a complex challenge that directly affects our nation’s economic competitiveness,” said Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. “Through the NSF Convergence Accelerator program, and in partnership with USDA, NSF is committed to investing in research teams that will pursue novel technologies, tools and approaches to strengthen our nation’s food supply chain, all the while reducing the inequities of historically underserved communities. We hope this investment will reduce wasted food while aiding the 12.8% of U.S. households that were food insecure in 2022.”

By awarding this cooperative agreement, the NSF is investing in new technologies that address the complex challenges in tackling food and nutrition insecurity from climate, war, displacement, poverty, severe weather, and natural disasters. This investment will particularly address the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities and involve a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Through the Convergence Accelerator program, the NSF aims to transform food systems across the nation to ensure access to healthy, safe, and affordable food, as well as create sustainable agricultural forestry and food practices. The track’s focus aligns with the USDA’s priority to ensure everyone in the country has consistent and equitable access to safe, healthy, and affordable food that is essential to health and well-being.