The University of Nebraska Board of Regents today approved the naming of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, the university-wide research, education and policy analysis center that was established last year with a $50 million gift from the Robert B. Daugherty Charitable Foundation.

The Daugherty Institute is dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water to feed a rapidly growing global population. The university announced Daugherty’s gift – one of the largest in its history – in April 2010. Daugherty, the legendary founder of Valmont Industries who became a leader in improving agricultural productivity, died this past November.

“It is because of Bob Daugherty that the Water for Food Institute exists,” said University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken. “Naming the institute in Bob’s honor is a sign of the university’s deep appreciation for his vision and generosity, which will allow us to take a leadership role in the world in addressing one of the greatest challenges facing mankind: feeding more people with finite amounts of water.”

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase 40 percent, and demand for food will double, Milliken noted. Irrigated agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s freshwater resources.

Water for food is one of six academic priorities of the university’s Campaign for Nebraska, a $1.2 billion comprehensive campaign announced in October 2009. The university has a long history in water and agriculture education and outreach, with many faculty from a range of disciplines already recognized as national leaders. The Daugherty Institute will build on their work, Milliken said.

“Ultimately, our hope is that the Daugherty Institute will become the premier interdisciplinary institute in the world dedicated to the use of water for agriculture,” Milliken said. “Because of Bob’s visionary support, the strength of our faculty, and the expertise and interest from farmers, ranchers, scientists and educators in Nebraska and around the world, I believe the institute is well on its way.”

Together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Daugherty Institute will host the third annual Water for Food Conference May 1-4 in Lincoln. The conference, Water for Food: Path to Solutions, will bring together experts from around the world to discuss potential solutions for managing and using the world’s water resources to feed an increasingly hungry and thirsty world. Registration for the conference opened last month.

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