Skip to main content

Chobani makes $1 million gift to CAFE project

University of Idaho news release

TWIN FALLS – Chobani Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya expects the state’s dairy industry will soon have a major edge when it comes to finding top talent and meeting the lofty challenge of improving sustainability. 

During a May 11 ceremony at the company’s local food processing plant, Chobani awarded a $1 million gift to the University of Idaho-led Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Idaho CAFE). 

As Chobani prepares to significantly ramp up its local production, Ulukaya is certain Idaho CAFE will play a critical role in helping his plant fill a host of jobs, including at the Ph.D. level, while also generating unique research to help the dairy industry achieve greater production with fewer inputs.

Idaho CAFE is scheduled for a June 30 groundbreaking and will span three counties with a 2,000-cow research dairy and 640-acre demonstration farm in Rupert, a public outreach and education center in Jerome and collaborative food science efforts developed in partnership with the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

Idaho CAFE will be the nation’s largest research dairy, conducting research and delivering education that will support a sustainable future for Idaho’s dairies, livestock operations, crop production and food processing industries. 

“The most important help we need is educated young Idahoans, either people from here or people who come to our state and are educated in our state schools and would love to stay here and live and build a life here,” Ulukaya said. “We all have to come together to make sure that this talent, this young talent, stays in this beautiful place.”

Ulukaya believes Idaho CAFE will be a monument to food production for building workforce, improving sustainability in the Magic Valley, enabling the region’s food makers to implement better and more sustainable practices and helping them lead the country through their innovation.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little added, “I believe this is literally going to catapult us to the next area of greatness as far as agriculture in the Magic Valley.”

Research at Idaho CAFE will focus on areas such as nutrient management, water management and the intersection between the state’s agricultural and urban lands. 

Chobani has long been a supporter of U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, including the Chobani Scholars program that supports students from the Magic Valley pursuing degrees related to agriculture.

“With nearly 20 percent of Idaho’s total economic output, the agricultural industry clearly influences the health of our state’s economy, and I firmly believe that what’s good for Idaho agriculture is good for Idaho,” CALS Dean Michael Parrella said. “For that reason we are tremendously thankful for Chobani’s investment in moving us closer to the finish line for constructing the research dairy and getting to work conducting research that is critically important for Idaho’s dairy producers.”

The facility will provide the state’s dairymen with solutions to help industry meet ever-growing demands to conserve precious resources and minimize their environmental impact. 

“It’s going to be the difference maker for our dairymen to be able to accomplish these goals and to be able to have something to pass on to the next generation,” Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO Rick Naerebout said. 

The facility will tackle many research questions that have never previously been explored.

It will operate like a commercial farm and is designed to represent the average dairy in southern Idaho. The initial construction phase of the $22.5 million project includes facilities to house milking and nutrient management operations.

U of I aims to start milking cows in the Rupert location after the first phase is completed in 2023. 

“Building the nation’s largest research dairy has been a goal of the university for well over 12 years, and frankly we are the third largest milk-producing state in the country, so it’s important that we support sustainable agriculture across all of Idaho,” U of I President Scott Green said.