Agreement signed with Asia's biggest dairy producer

Laura Spitz, interim vice provost for international affairs and associate dean for international affairs at Cornell Law School, signs a research agreement Sept. 23 in Seattle on behalf of Cornell to create a novel cheese product for Yili Industrial Group.

Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, center, and Laura Spitz, third from the left, stand with members of the Yili Group’s delegation in Seattle.

Cornell University signed its first research agreement with Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group (Yili Group), the largest dairy producer in China and one of the top 10 dairy producers in the world, Sept. 23 in Seattle. The agreement is expected to be the first of many between two of the world’s leaders in food and dairy technology.

“The Cornell-Yili partnership defines the type of public-private partnerships that are needed to increase research to create a thriving global agricultural economy and provide high-quality food products for a world that is predicted to soon reach 9 billion people,” said Martin Wiedmann, the Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety in the Department of Food Science. “A specific benefit for Cornell and our students will be that international public-private partnerships like this will enable us to gain insights into global food-related challenges and opportunities.”

Cornell and Yili began exploring the idea of collaboration in 2014 and signed a Memorandum of Understanding the following April. That agreement calls for the partners to develop research programs that increase dairy product innovation and quality assurance, covering a range of advances from farm technology to milk processing and the creation of value-added dairy products.

Under the terms of the research agreement signed Sept. 23, Yili Group will provide funding for Cornell to develop a novel cheese product aimed at the Chinese market.

Carmen Moraru, associate professor of food science, is leading the project. “They want to develop a new cheese product, made of milk components and ingredients which Asian consumers are more used to, such as soy proteins,” Moraru said. “There are some technical challenges that we’re going to try to solve for them, using our knowledge of proteins and texturization.”

Laura Spitz, interim vice provost for international affairs, attended the Seattle signing on behalf of Cornell. Spitz said the new partnership with Yili is consistent with Cornell’s global strategy to work across disciplines and institutions to effectively address global problems.

“Research excellence is critical, but so is project management and practical application,” Spitz said. “Partnerships and consortia participation enable us to do this – to operationalize our innovation.”

Yili Group is based in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. The group has established several high-profile international collaborations in the past two years.

“Through solid collaboration between Cornell and Yili Group, both institutions will learn a lot from each other, and together grow as the world’s major powerhouses in their respected fields of expertise,” said Jiwu Yang, general manager of Yili Innovation Center. “We are looking forward to building a long-term and fruitful relationship with Cornell.”

Krisy Gashler is a freelance writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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