URBANA, ILLINOIS, U.S. — Bühler announced on Oct. 14 that it will be the main supplier of grain and feed processing equipment for the Feed Technology Center at the University of Illinois, contributing more than $1 million in milling, grinding, mixing and pelleting equipment to the project, with a substantial portion of that total provided as a gift.

The digitally connected facility will feature a Bühler multi-channel, inline NIR system, which will monitor the compositional quality of feed ingredients, in real time, during diet preparation.

The data will be uploaded to Bühler Insights, their IoT cloud platform, powered by Microsoft Azure, enabling analysis by a team of data scientists. This analysis, combined with Bühler’s team of technologists and process engineers, along with University of Illinois animal scientists, is expected to uncover new insights and provide new tools for feed mill operators and animal producers. The Swiss-based company also will supply the automation hardware and software to operate the facility, along with technical expertise.

“The animal industry is experiencing a digital transformation,” said Rodney Johnson, head of the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois. “Our new Feed Technology Center, equipped with Bühler’s newest technology in feed production, will facilitate research that enables real-time decision making to enhance diet quality and production efficiency. The partnership with Bühler aligns perfectly with our push into the precision animal management space and our newly established joint degree with Computer Science.”

Brian Williams, vice-president, marketing and business development at Bühler, said: “We commend Dr. Johnson and the University of Illinois team for having the courage to build and equip the facility of the future. Our shared vision of a digitally connected facility, powered by the Bühler Insights platform, will enable data science to unlock new levels of efficiency and sustainability. We are thrilled to team-up with the Illini to create this future together.” 

The Feed Technology Center, along with Bühler’s contribution, will provide experiential learning opportunities for students in the latest feed technologies. This hands-on experience, along with new courses in the Department of Animal Sciences, will position students for leadership in the animal nutrition industry. In particular, the equipment’s reliance on cloud-based data will enable students in the department’s new interdisciplinary major — Computer Science + Animal Sciences — to build highly marketable skills.  

“We greatly appreciate our relationship with Bühler,” said Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “They have been outstanding contributors to multiple research enterprises in the college. Their technology already is being used in the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory and the Food Science and Human Nutrition Pilot Processing Plant. We are grateful for their unwavering commitment to helping us create industry-relevant training experiences for students and for supporting translatable research that advances agricultural and food sciences.”