With a total of $35,000 in Indiana soybean checkoff dollars awarded to the top three finishers in this year’s Purdue soy product innovation contest, Hoosier soybean farmers are committed to the program in a big way, and they have been since 1994. What kind of return is the Indiana Soybean Alliance hoping for?
Jim Douglas from Flat Rock in Shelby County, is an ISA director and the Grain Production and Utilization Committee Chair. He says they’re looking for real world, marketable products that use soy.
“It’s totally just to increase the use of soybeans to return that back to the farmers of the state of Indiana,” he explained. “You can look at that several different ways in dollars, but the more beans that get used in our everyday products that consumers use, it’ll benefit everybody, especially the soybean farmers.”
This year’s winning entry, a cheaper and more efficient heating and air filter made of soy instead of paper demonstrates the ingenuity of Purdue students. Douglas saw that first hand as he took on the challenging task of judging this year.
“There’s some clear ones that float to the top, but we had some experts there that know the chemical compounds and everything. It gets pretty technical and that’s knowledge that I don’t have, so I’m glad they were there. But it’s very inspiring to see these students come in. Some are very polished and present very good ideas. Then you’ve got some that need a little work, but it’s the full gamut and a lot of them will enter again next year.”
Douglas credited the staff at Purdue for helping coordinate the competition.
Sixteen teams composed of 50 Purdue University students finished the competition and they represent a variety of majors, including food science, engineering, animal science and computer science. Each team works with two faculty advisors who provide technical and market research support.
“Our farmer board invests soybean checkoff funds in this competition with the end goal of moving some of the soy-based products from the student labs to the marketplace and drive demand for our soybeans,” said Tom Griffiths, ISA chairman and farmer from Kendallville. “For the past 20 years, we have seen that goal met several times and also seen hundreds of students introduced to the versatility and potential of soybeans as an industrial and food ingredient through this competition.”
Following the annual competition, ISA evaluates each soy-based innovation created by the student teams to determine if they have commercial viability to break into the marketplace and ultimately increase the demand for soybeans. Some past successful soy-based products that got their start from the student competition include candles, crayons and leather conditioner.
“This year’s Soybean Product Innovation Competition once again illustrates the versatility and enormous potential of soybeans in the marketplace with 16 new soy-based products created by a talented group of Purdue students,” said Griffiths. “I hope that these students – including the majority who have no connection to agriculture – are inspired by this experience to pursue a career in our industry.”
Indiana soybean farmers’ investment in finding new soybean innovations is not limited to the competition. The state soybean checkoff also funds the Soybean Utilization Endowed Chair in Purdue’s College of Agriculture to lead research into new uses for soybeans.
Currently, ISA is also working with companies in the concrete industry to license a new soy-based concrete sealant developed through checkoff-funded research at Purdue University. This soy-based, penetrating concrete sealer is ideal for concrete roadway infrastructure where protecting the environment is a key requirement or consideration.
“Building demand for soybeans is a top priority of Indiana Soybean Alliance, and we believe the area of new use innovation, including this competition, is one where we continue to add value to our soybean crop,” said Griffiths.