TWIN FALLS — A $1 million donation now means the University of Idaho has $20 million to start work on the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE), which will include the world’s largest research dairy.
The J.R. Simplot Co.’s $1 million donation to the U of I brought the university’s commitment for CAFE to $10 million. That triggered a $10 million state appropriation to the school. The entire project is estimated to cost $45 million, with the remaining $25 million expected to come from a variety of partners.
The CAFE model is three-pronged. It will include a 540-acre, 2,000 head research dairy near Rupert. There will be farmland associated with the dairy as well.
There will also be a discovery complex in Jerome, just off the Interstate 84-U.S. Highway 93 exit. That facility will aim to educate visitors about Idaho agriculture, and will include faculty, student and researcher housing.
The College of Southern Idaho will provide food science research capabilities and training for CAFE.
The university plans on seeking the Idaho State Board of Education’s approval next month to begin design work. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2021, and could wrap up in 2023. Researchers will start milking cows in 2024.
Soil sampling of farmland associated with the dairy site has already begun. Those 800 samples, and 4,000 pounds of soil, will help establish a baseline so that researchers can track changes in environmental conditions over time at the dairy and farm.