Case Study: Dairy Innovation Challenge

About the Dairy Innovation Challenge


The Dairy Innovation Hub of UW-Madison (DIH) partnered with Hyper Innovation (HI) to create a program catered to students that would address problem focus areas defined by the DIH. The challenge-based program was a ten week challenge and student cohort with participating students from UW-Madison and UW-River Falls.

During the fall 2020 semester, Dairy Innovation Hub and Hyper Innovation hosted a Student Challenge to harness the creativity of UW System undergraduate students to discover novel solutions for the dairy community. The Challenge relied on industry advisors to define problems and create opportunities for students to generate solutions addressing the most pressing issues facing the Wisconsin dairy industry, including those identified by the state’s Dairy Task Force 2.0.


The Dairy Innovation Hub (DIH) harnesses research and development at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River springs campuses to keep Wisconsin’s dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable manner.

The Dairy Task Force 2.0 is a Wisconsin State Government initiative centered on developing sustainable solutions for improving the dairy industry in Wisconsin, which continues to face hardship due to low margins and high competition in the market, a decline in dairy consumption across America, and the rise of alternative options for “milk.”

Hyper Innovation is an Innovation-as-a-Service agency that bridges the gap between the complexity of tech-driven innovation and the creation of real-world solutions. Hyper Innovation works with clients to hyper-focus their innovation efforts and create customized resource networks for strategy-based execution on opportunities with speed and efficiency.

The Challenge and Cohort

The three focus areas defined by the industry professionals and the DIH were:

  1. Enhance the Shelf-Life of Wisconsin Dairy Products

This is about expanding the potential markets for Wisconsin dairy products because with a longer, shelf-life they can be distributed to more locations. This could take the form of re-engineering the product itself to be more self-stable, or it may be improvements in-transit technologies (like better refrigerated shipping containers).

  1. Encourage Dairy Product Consumption by Wisconsin Students

This is about increasing the market size at the individual level. How can we encourage more young people to consume dairy products? Again — this could be by developing a new product, or it could be through successful messaging and educational campaigns.

  1. Utilize IOT or Robotic Technologies to Minimize Labor or Enhance Farm Operations

This focuses on implementing technologies on farms that can increase efficiency, and bring new insights into the hands of farmers.

Through virtual collaboration across campus(es), students working in teams generated ideas and industry professionals brought in to serve as mentors assessed the viability of potential solutions and selected participants for the Student Cohort. Student participants were offered the opportunity to work with a specific mentor throughout the semester who assisted the team in developing their strategy and final project to be presented to a panel of judges. 

The Dairy Innovation Student Cohort began with eight teams, with projects ranging from school program implementations, to designing new packaging and products, and creating new IOT technologies. At the end of the ten week engagement, seven teams remained with completed reports and presentations.

On November 18, dairy industry professionals and cohort mentors were invited to participate as judges in the first-ever Dairy Innovation Showcase where the seven cohort teams pitched their projects and presented their final work. Teams were competing for cash prizes based on strategic parameters meant to determine potential, commercializable ideas.

Prize Categories

There are a total of $11,250 available in cash prizes.

Best of Show ($2,500 Category)

Proposed solutions will compete against each other for a $2,500 cash prize that centers on addressing: For each focus area, which proposed solution best addresses the goals of the identified problem?

Best of Focus Area 1: Enhance the shelf-life of Wisconsin Dairy Products

Best of Focus Area 2: Encourage Dairy Consumption by Wisconsin Students

Best of Focus Area 3: Utilize IOT or Robotic Technologies Minimize Labor or Enhance Farm Operations

Ribbon Winners ($750 Category)

Each of the following prizes will be awarded based on the specified criteria of that prize. Prizes will be awarded based on votes from the industry judges at the Cohort Showcase on November 17, 2020.

Best Presentation: Industry Judges and students will vote on the team that best presented their work, regardless of the research outcomes. The winner will be the presentation that best lays out the research conducted, the insights learned, and the benefits, etc of the proposed solution.

Most Creative Initial Idea: Industry Judges will vote on the proposed solution that most creatively addressed one of the Challenge Focus Areas, regardless of research outcomes. Which idea challenged the legacy mindset of the dairy industry and approached the problem in the most out-of-the-box way.

Most Sustainable Solution: Sustainability is one of the key focus areas of the Dairy Innovation Hub. Industry Judges will vote on the proposed solution that presents a sustainable, environmentally friendly opportunity to create a positive, lasting impact on the environment and stewards resources responsibly. 

Best Plan of Execution: Industry Judges will vote on the proposed solution that has the most promising, most realistic plan of execution, that addresses: partnerships and connections, integration or manufacturing requirements, additional resources or research needed, and time/money/labor saving capabilities.

Most Improved Desirability, Feasibility, Viability (DFV) Score: Industry Judges will vote on the proposed solution that through their research and further development of the solution was able to make a strong case for an improved DFV score. Before the beginning of the student cohort, mentors assessed each proposed solution and assigned a DFV score which will serve as the benchmark for the reassessment at the end of the cohort.

Showcase Winners

Ribbon Winners
Best Presentation

Improving Packages for School Meal Programs

Most Creative Initial Idea

Meadow Breeze: Instant Cold Milk Pouches

Most Sustainable Solution

Extending the Shelf-Life of Yogurt Using Natural Bioactives

Best Execution Plan

Extending the Shelf-Life of Yogurt Using Natural Bioactives

Most Improved DFV Score

Development of a Computer Vision System for Heat Detection in Dairy Cows

Best of Show
Enhance the shelf-life of Wisconsin Dairy Products

Extending the Shelf-Life of Yogurt Using Natural Bioactives

Encourage Dairy Consumption by Wisconsin Students

Encouraging Milk Consumption Through Online Gaming

Utilize IOT or Robotic Technologies Minimize Labor or Enhance Farm Operations

Temperature Monitoring Through Non-invasive Septum Ring

Project Summaries

Project 1: Meadow Breeze: Instant Cold Milk Pouches

Combine known technologies (UHT, pouch beverage, ultrafiltration, instant cold pack) to create appealing products for school age kids. The key is integrating the cold pack to the milk pouch in a safely sequestered way.

Project 2: Development of a Computer Vision System for Heat Detection in Dairy Cows

Developing a computer vision system to help farmers accurately detect heats while also reducing needs for tail chalking or manual heat detection. This will increase accuracy to detect heat, decrease labor costs, and increase overall farm profitability.

Project 3: Dairy Nutrition Education in School Athletics and Academics

This project looks into the packaging of milk, and how more appealing packaging can be more attractive. This could eliminate the decreasing amounts of milk consumed in K-12 schools by grabbing the attention of the students.

Project 4: Temperature Monitoring Through Non-invasive Septum Ring

Creating a septum ring similar to a weaning ring that will be attached to the calf’s septum as an alternative for monitoring calf temperature that is continuous, less time consuming, and non-invasive. The ring will monitor the calf’s temperature and alert the producer via an app or computer program when a spike in body temperature occurs.

Project 5: Extending Shelf-Life of Yogurt Using Natural Bio-Actives

Identify 2-3 different natural bio-actives with anti-microbial, specifically with antifungal properties. Add various concentrations of the bio-actives identified in the manufactured yogurt and study the shelf-life of the product. Sensory studies can also be done to ensure that the bio-actives added does not affect the flavor of the product.

Project 6: Encouraging Dairy Consumption through Online Gaming

K-8 students can be encouraged to consume more milk by providing a QR code that will link to a gaming app. This app would provide students an opportunity to create their own dairy farm, to educate them and make them aware of where their milk comes from and the work that goes into providing it.

Project 7: Improving Packaging for School Meal Programs to Encourage Dairy Consumption Among Wisconsin Students

Replacing paperboard milk cartons with bottled milk could increase milk consumption among Wisconsin students. This will eliminate the problem of children finding paperboard cartons to be less visually appealing and less user-friendly than bottles.


The seven teams were invited to continue the development of their projects by leveraging resources on the UW-Madison campus, and with the Hyper Innovation Tech Exploration Lab.