Ohio State breaks ground on Multispecies Animal Learning Center

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OSU Multispecies Animal Learning Center
(From left to right) Graham Cochran, Matt Canterna, Lori Gillett, Devin Fuhrman, Dennis Summers, Don Jones, Cathann Kress, Ted Carter, Elizabeth Harsh, Pasha Lyvers Peffer, Elizabeth Lott, and Alvaro Garcia Guerra dig up dirt in celebration of the MALC. (Liz Partsch photo)

COLUMBUS — Ohio State University celebrated the groundbreaking of its new Multispecies Animal Learning Center on Jan. 30, dedicated to advancing the future of livestock and agriculture education for the next generation.

On a windy January morning, faculty and project partners plunged shovels into a dirt patch in front of the Waterman Dairy Center after a ceremony thanking investors and discussing the future of OSU’s College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences MALC.

Once built, the $53 million facility will provide education and workforce development for essential STEM fields and careers in animal sciences, engineering, food science and human nutrition and health.

“This is a really unique facility because there’s 261 acres of food, ag and environmental laboratories in the heart of the 14th largest city. You just don’t see that kind of unique facility,” said Cathann Kress, vice president and dean of the CFAES at OSU. “To have it in this close of a proximity to where our students and our researchers are means we can do incredible work here.”

A new future

The new facility is part of the broader project to modernize the university’s agricultural education programs via new infrastructure on its Waterman property, located on the west side of the Columbus campus.

OSU opened the Kunz-Brundige Franklin County Extension Building in 2019, where students and adults can participate in a host of programs, including the master gardener program, as well as work in The Garden of Hope, a vegetable garden for cancer survivors where participants learn the benefits of a plant-based diet.

In 2022, OSU opened its second facility as part of the upgrades, the Controlled Environment Food Production Research Complex. The complex provides a platform for research in crop science, entomology, plant pathology, food science and a host of other fields.

According to Kress, the research facility has already secured $10 million in research funding. The facility is also home to the global space platform StarLab’s first-ever science park where scientists will conduct space agriculture research.

The Multispecies Animal Learning Center will be the third and final building built as part of the upgrades. Ohio State President Walter “Ted” Carter Jr., said the new Waterman facilities are critical for the future of agriculture.

“We’re bringing the public, private and academic sectors together in all these places because together we can look at problems in new ways,” Carter said, at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We can develop unique solutions and we can find ways to deliver those solutions to the world.”

OSU President Ted Carter
(From left to right) Cathann Kress stands to the left as OSU President Ted Carter gives a speech at the groundbreaking ceremony for the MALC in front of the old Waterman Dairy Center on Jan. 30, 2024. (Liz Partsch photo)

The center

MALC will focus on statewide outreach, specifically bringing in groups from all over the state for youth development like K-12th graders, FFA and 4-H.

“We really look at (this facility) as an opportunity to bring groups here across the state that will benefit from these facilities,” said Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of Ohio Beef Council and the Ohio Cattleman’s Association, one of the sponsors of MALC, who spoke at the ceremony.

The new “multispecies” facility will house a variety of livestock for hands-on learning including poultry, swine, horses, cattle, sheep and goats. Additionally, the current Waterman dairy farm will be turned into a state-of-the-art facility with robotic milking technology and the latest dairy technologies, feed systems and waste management.

The public will also have a chance to learn about the latest in livestock production by attending tours and viewing interactive, educational displays.

For the past five years, OSU has been planning, developing and fundraising for MALC. Major partners who have sponsored the facility are Nationwide, the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Cattleman’s Association and many more.

Currently, $16.4 million has been secured for the facility, $10 million of which came from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly and $4 million donated by Nationwide.

As they work on building the facility to be ready for the fall of 2025, Kress adds MALC and the other Waterman buildings are part of OSU’s investment into the future of agriculture.

“Technology and ag continues to move forward at a rapid pace,” Kress. “We’ve had facilities here that have been wonderful, but they’re old. This is allowing us to modernize it, to really step into the future and be able to make sure our students are learning the latest techniques, the latest technology and understanding what that could mean for the future and sustainability.”

(Reporter Liz Partsch can be reached at epartsch@farmanddairy.com or 330-337-3419.) 

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