South Dakota State University (SDSU) last Thursday announced the launch of its new Center for Agribusiness and Food Systems Management. An SDSU news release said the center will focus on nutrition, food safety, food processing and business management, and will draw on collaborative, interdisciplinary and intercollegiate partnerships to provide guidance and solutions to challenges facing the food and agriculture industries throughout the Northern Great Plains.

As part of SDSU's Economics and Management Program, the center comprises faculty members from the Colleges of Agricultural and Biological Sciences, Engineering, Arts and Sciences, and Education and Human Sciences, as well as from Northern State University and Dakota State University. The center will facilitate broad communication with industry stakeholders seeking information critical to the continuing success of their operations. A key objective will be offering analyses of regional, national and global economic, environmental and market conditions that support strategic decision-making at all levels, from producers to processors and manufacturers, to lending agencies and banks, and to animal and human health providers. The intercollegiate aspect of the center will enable greater depth in the exploration of consumer economics and will incorporate behavioral and social aspects of health, nutrition and food safety.

"The center will bring together and leverage the strengths of SDSU and our partners in the sciences, technology, economics and business management," said Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agricultural and Biological Sciences and director of SDSU Extension. "By partnering with our sister institutions, cooperatives, and private businesses, it will be a catalyst for engagement and unbiased research, education and outreach."

On the educational side, the center will produce high-quality undergraduate and graduate students by offering hands-on opportunities to respond to complex problems in classrooms, working with faculty and though internships and other learning experiences with external partners.

Founding partners will actively engage in projects and the ongoing activities of the center. They include First Dakota National Bank, First Bank and Trust, South Dakota Wheat Growers, Valley Queen Cheese Factory and Dakotaland Feeds, with others pending.

"The new Center for Agribusiness and Food Systems Management will be a tremendous asset for businesses and employers in the region," said Mark Leddy, CEO of the Valley Queen Cheese Factory in Milbank, SD. "We have had a long history of collaboration with the dairy science department at SDSU, and we think the center will provide a framework for additional collaboration between the university and regional family-owned businesses like Valley Queen that make use of SDSU research and hire SDSU graduates, to not just survive, but to thrive in an increasingly global and competitive marketplace."

Short-term, the partnerships between faculty and researchers and industry partners will support timely responses to real-world challenges in the areas of agriculture, food systems and agribusiness.

Longer-term, the center will become the leading source of innovative applied information for the regional agriculture industry and beyond. The collaborative model will enhance the center's ability to respond to a range of increasingly complex and multidisciplinary needs.

"We see the center as a gateway to the university for our external stakeholders, offering them access to our problem-solving capabilities and the outcomes of our purpose-driven research," said Dunn. "And that, in turn, creates employment opportunities for our graduates and helps enhance the agricultural and agribusiness sectors of the region's economy. Ultimately, the new center builds upon and leverages SDSU's land-grant mission."