August 12, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.

Investing in the future of dairy

Compeer Financial donates $1M toward dairy pilot plant at UW-Platteville

By ABBY WIEDMEYER | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
Staff Writer

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The plans for the Dairy Pilot Plant and Training Center are underway at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, thanks to a $1 million donation from Compeer Financial. The project is estimated to cost a total of $10 million and will be funded through further gifts and grants. 


PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Plans are underway for a new Dairy Pilot Plant and Training Center to be built at University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Pioneer Farm. 

Progress on the project has been given a boost thanks to a $1 million donation from Compeer Financial. The donation is the biggest gift Compeer has ever given one individual entity for a project. UW-Platteville’s professor of dairy and animal science Tera Montgomery said the university has a long-standing relationship with Compeer.

“The school of agriculture has worked with Compeer Financial for a very long time, so we knew they were going to be a good partner of the Dairy Pilot Plant and Training Center,” Montgomery said. “In our conversations, they said they felt like it hit all the different points of what was important to them in terms of rural vitality and helping farmers and others in agriculture.”

Plans for the pilot plant are about 80% complete. Montgomery anticipates the finished project to cost approximately $10 million. Funding is being pursued through gifts and grants, which allows the project to move more quickly and give the donors a say in the decisions if they so choose. 

Because of the nature of the funding process, a timeline is difficult to form.

“I would love to say in two years during June Dairy Month we will have a grand opening, but I can’t say that,” Montgomery said. “I can’t really see it happening any faster than that just because of some of the tasks that need to be accomplished.”

When the funding goal is eventually reached, the Dairy Pilot Plant and Training Center will be built at the university’s school farm where the 200-head of dairy cattle are milked with a parlor and two robots. The goal is to provide education, outreach, research and training for students, producers and consumers. 

The building will feature a production floor with observation windows, packaging capabilities and a store front. The area will serve as a host for any equipment that is brought in to experiment with. The entire design is plug and play with drop down electrical from the ceiling. Montgomery said it will provide proof of concept for a place where innovative dairy products can be made. 

The store will sell ice cream from the university’s student-led ice cream business, Pioneer Sweets. It will also offer local products and provide an observing opportunity for people in the store to see and hear what is happening on the production floor. 

Montgomery hopes local farmers and consumers will feel a positive impact from the Dairy Pilot Plant and Training Center.

Tera Montgomery



“It’s meant to inspire people and get them to think of what they could potentially do on their own farms,” Montgomery said. “We can show people what is really possible with farm to fork.”

The university plans to hire an agricultural business faculty member who can help analyze data for people who are using the pilot plant and figuring out how to launch their ideas. 

The benefits will extend to university students as well, with the opportunity to research and train close to campus. Ultimately, the Dairy Pilot Plant and Training Center will allow the current trajectory of the research center to continue with its momentum. Some projects that have been funded through the Dairy Innovation Hub, for example, could be expanded with the new facility.

One of the current research projects in the dairy food science area at UW-Platteville involves a new technology developing plasma-activated water. Plasma-activated water is antimicrobial in nature and could be used to eliminate bacteria where it is not wanted such as while cleaning surfaces or growing plants like alfalfa. 

Logistics play a role in the planning of the new facility as well. Montgomery said while UW-Madison is a well-known place to bring scientists together, the cost of travel and accommodations are more expensive than in the rural setting of Platteville. 

“There’s a lot of training that happens across the state that can now have another place where we can meet and get some perspectives on how to do things differently,” Montgomery said. “We can’t and won’t replace UW-Madison’s Center for Dairy Research, but we can be an extension of what they are accomplishing there.”

Montgomery said she would like to see this project go so well that it can be duplicated elsewhere in the state. Her hope is that the investment in the dairy industry will continue to be a priority across Wisconsin. 

“The more we know, the better resource we can be for future students, for current farmers and for alumni and everyone,” Montgomery said. “It’s a process, but that’s the awesome thing about Compeer stepping up and saying they want to help us get there faster.”


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