The Ohio State University broke ground last week on the $52 million Multispecies Animal Learning Center (MALC), which will advance student learning and workforce development in animal agriculture.
The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) will build the state-of-the-art facility at Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory on the Columbus campus.
Ohio State President Walter “Ted” Carter Jr., who spoke at the groundbreaking on his 30th day on the job, said, “Agriculture is critically important, not only for states like Ohio, but for our nation and our world.
“This Multispecies Animal Learning Center is going to benefit our students by providing hands-on training that leads to careers in animal agriculture,” Carter said. “It’s going to benefit the industry by being a hub for research and workforce development. It’s going to benefit our state broadly, as agriculture is Ohio’s No. 1 industry. This university exists to serve, and this new facility is going to help us better serve the state of Ohio.”
The MALC will facilitate education in essential STEM fields and will foster workforce development for diverse careers such as animal sciences, engineering, food science, human nutrition and health. Inside the facility, students will have opportunities to gain hands-on experience with swine, equine, poultry, cattle, sheep and goats. The public will have a chance to learn about modern livestock production with tours; a viewing area into the animal barns; and interactive, educational displays.
“This is a game-changer for us. It is integral to our vision for Waterman and will be a world-class facility that brings people and animals together for hands-on learning, engagement and programming,” said Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. “It’s going to bring schoolchildren, in grades K through 12, here to learn about career pathways. It’s going to engage people from all across our industry. And it’s going to be a place where all of us can learn more about the work of the university and our industry.”
As an expansion of the original MALC project, a new, modern dairy will also be constructed at Waterman to replace the aging dairy facility. It will feature robotic milking technology and the latest in precision dairy technologies, feed systems and waste management. The new dairy will meet educational and research needs, with a projected completion date of winter 2025.
CFAES is actively fundraising while moving forward with MALC construction, with opening expected in fall 2025. At present, $16.4 million in philanthropic funding has been secured, which includes $11.5 million from Nationwide Foundation. In addition, a $10 million investment from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the General Assembly was allocated in the state budget toward the project.
“We’re just so proud of what’s happening right now with this new project,” said Devin Fuhrman, Nationwide’s chief agriculture and sponsor relations officer. “Nationwide is a company founded by farmers. Being able to invest in the future of agriculture is so important to us. We hope we can provide pathways to create opportunities for students of all ages to find their way to a career in agriculture.”
The new multispecies center will bolster Ohio State’s ability to offer interdisciplinary teaching and research opportunities. Additionally, it will provide space for Ohio State University Extension – CFAES’ statewide outreach arm – and youth development programs, such as 4-H and FFA, and their events.
“The construction of this facility presents an opportunity for even greater engagement with the broader university – our students, our faculty and our staff. It will be an opportunity to showcase all the tremendous work that takes place here at Waterman and how food really reaches from farm to plate and everything that goes into that,” said Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and Ohio Beef Council and an Ohio State trustee.