JEROME, Idaho — Dairy foods research scientist Venkateswarlu Sunkesula is new to Idaho’s dairy industry. But he’s been around cows since he was a boy, growing up on a small, integrated farm in India that was surrounded by many small dairies.
He’s also known for quite some time he wanted to do dairy research, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dairy science from a renowned dairy university in India.
“Dairy has always been my passion,” he said.
After receiving his degrees in India, he had planned to come to the U.S. to get a Ph.D. in dairy science. But family commitments delayed that plan, and he worked for food and dairy manufacturing companies in India for 15 years.
His long-term goal, however, is in sight. He started at South Dakota State University in 2016, working with well-known Professor Lloyd Metzer.
“Better late than never. I am fortunate to work with him because he’s very knowledgeable,” he said.
He could have pursued his Ph.D. in India, but dairy research in the U.S. is more advanced, he said.
All his research work is done, and he’s working on his thesis and will probably finish it this summer.
His research interest is in dairy chemistry and processing, novel processing technologies and functional dairy ingredients. His research focus at SDSU was developing new value-added ingredients from dairy co-products.
While doing research at the university, he was part of a team of dairy science students that entered the new product development competition sponsored by the Idaho Milk Processors Association.
That brought him and the team to Idaho to present their product and research at IMPA’s annual convention in 2018. There, he became acquainted with officials from Idaho Milk Products. Not long after, they offered him a position and he started at the dairy ingredient company last summer.
His main role at the company is threefold and involves research to improve the functionality of milk protein concentrates and developing production processes using new technology to commercialize products for scale-up.
He is also setting up the company’s new research-and-development pilot plant.
“The goal is to work with customers to develop new products using our ingredients,” he said.
Consumer demand keeps changing, as does customer demand for dairy ingredients to fortify other foods, he said.
“They want high protein. High protein is the main trend,” he said.
He’ll be working on developing high-protein foods — such as ice cream and beverages — for the company’s customers. His position at Idaho Milk Products allows him to do exactly the type of research and development he desires, he said.
“It’s a good platform to work on what I want to do. I like my work here,” he said.
His goal is to contribute to and add value to the dairy industry through his research ideas and innovation techniques, he said.