The dairy industry is marking a milestone on its path toward the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

With a $10 million investment from Nestlé over the next five years, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has selected the first of five farms in its pilot program to see which innovations and technologies will work to achieve climate goals while also generating new revenue streams on the farm. Innovation Center CEO Barbara O’Brien said $1.5 million from Nestle will go directly to projects at Trinkler Dairy Farm in California, which is a Nestlé supplier. Four additional farms from different locations and of various sizes will be added to the Dairy Scale for Good pilot program, O’Brien said.

The first five years of the “learning journey,” as O’Brien calls the plan, “are going to be so critical to filling some of the gaps we have” in understanding what’s economically feasible.

Methane digesters that capture the gas from manure and channel it into the renewable gas pipeline, and feed additives that can reduce the methane released from cow burps are among the technologies in the mix, O’Brien said. Different farms experimenting with myriad approaches will ultimately “help drive adoption of what farmers know works,” she said. Results from on-farm pilot projects will be documented and shared with others.

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In addition to Nestlé, the dairy initiative has support from The Nature Conservancy, Syngenta and other partners, and O’Brien adds that the farmers are expected to put money on the table, too. “It’s really about a public-private co-investment that’s ultimately going to make this happen,” she said.

The goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 was “a decade in the making,” she added. She expects additional farms in the pilot program will be announced later this summer.

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