Venture Winston Grants created a competition that will allow startup companies to apply for funding, allowing them to incorporate dairy into the areas of health and nutrition, biobased products, “smart” communities of the future or regenerative agriculture.
The DMI partnership with Venture Winston Grants is one example of the broader checkoff-led strategy, Dairy Transformation, which includes farmers and leaders from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and others outside of dairy to examine ways the industry can remain viable in the future.
“Our mission is to build a preferred future for dairy,” Dwyer Williams, chief transformation officer for DMI says. “We want to disrupt the marketplace before we’re disrupted and that requires looking for unexpected partners outside of the dairy industry. This Venture Winston Grants partnership allows us to identify new ideas on what the next big thing is for dairy that will provide exciting opportunities for farmers.”
Missouri dairy farmer and chair of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, Alex Peterson, has worked closely with Dairy Transformation and wholeheartedly believes that the partnership with Venture Winston Grants is a tremendous first step to help build that preferred future for dairy. “As fast as the world is spinning, if you are not leaning into new opportunities, they will lean elsewhere,” Peterson says. “This Dairy Transformation push is going to bring new cutting-edge partners of tomorrow to dairy’s table to help us explore new ideas to drive our dairy good story to the next level.”
Winston Salem has built a reputation as an entrepreneurial ecosystem and can provide startups with access to various resources and experts. It is expected they will announce official winners in January 2022. Dairy farmers and DMI also will be engaged with the entrepreneurs as they build out solutions.
Karen Barnes, co-founder of Venture Winston Grants, says they want farmers evaluating ideas and testing hypotheses and co-creating solutions with these startups. The company is estimating the timeframe to run between two and three years to have concepts commercialized and in the marketplace. “I’m a 1,000% optimist and when I look at the sectors where DMI is concentrating, I see great promise,” Barnes says. “What excites me is this is all coming together as a holistic picture. It’s not about solving just one problem. It’s about taking a 360-degree approach and that’s how you solve problems on a broad scale.”
Peterson is equally as excited not only as a board member for national checkoff, but as a dairy farmer who contributes to checkoff. “Our story with nutrition and sustainability is promising and startups want to put their capital into green efforts, as well as child nutrition.”
With more than 100 years behind the National Dairy Council, the promise of dairy’s sustainable and nutritional benefit is not just a tagline, but something this partnership hopes will propel new ventures to generate a new level of energy towards dairy’s future. “It’s like bringing the next generation back to the family farm. The ideas and energy this partnership can provide are endless,” Peterson adds.