U of M looking to bring $220M ag research facility to Mower County

(ABC 6 News) – The University of Minnesota is continuing to explore the development of an advanced agricultural research complex in Mower County to help farmers with sustainable food production.

The Future of Advanced Agricultural Research in Minnesota (FAARM) will bring together the U of M, The Hormel Foundation and Riverland Community College in Austin to build a new agriculture research and education center.

"This will be incredible on a scale that which is going to impact every aspect of those farmers who work with cattle, swine and poultry and definitely those farmers who use the crops to feed them," Nick Schiltz, an agricultural science instructor at Riverland Community College, said.

From farm to fork, this collaboration will allow southeast Minnesota to have a footprint to bring value to all employers and workforce development needs.

"Consumers want to know where their food comes from, how it’s made, how it’s produced and ultimately where it ends up. By doing this right here within Mower County, consumers will now have access to knowing where their food comes from," Schiltz said.

"A big call in agriculture is how to be more sustainable. Which, ultimately, helps farmers too because it’s reducing their resource footprint that they can work on. Profitability of course is a part of that," Brian Buhr, Dean of the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences at the U of M, said.

Minnesota has a $112 billion annual economic impact on agriculture and food science and the university says this partnership will position the state as a leader in the industry.

"Educating students on the modern approaches when it comes to agriculture is a large pipeline for all of our students across southeast Minnesota, both K-12 and post-secondary. What a way for us to connect with students all across this region and get them talking about Ag and food science," Schiltz said.

Both U of M graduate and undergraduate students along with Riverland Community College students will get to be involved in applied research and other educational opportunities in a state-of-the-art facility.

"We’re excited by the progress we’ve made. Having the support from The Hormel Foundation is terrific. That really has made this prospect possible," Buhr said.

Up next for this project is they’re looking at potential sites to build this facility while also working to partner with the Minnesota state legislature and other industry partners.

The total project is estimated to be about $220 million. However, this is expected to be another couple of years before this project becomes a full reality.