Creativity is a key ingredient in developing new soy-based products. To help spur some of those creative ideas for fun and functional products, the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) holds an annual Soybean Product Innovation Competition for Purdue University students.
“Indiana soybean farmers, through soy checkoff investments made by the ISA, have a proud tradition of developing innovative new uses for soybeans,” says ISA interim Executive Director Jane Ade Stevens. “This tradition is built on a foundation of enthusiasm and creativity from Purdue researchers and students seeking environmentally friendly, renewable products that bring added value to farmers.”
For the 2008 competition, five teams of Purdue University students participated, and the People's Choice award went to the creators of a soy waffle bowl — an edible ice cream dish composed of soy products.
The waffle bowl has gone on to be featured by ISA at the Indiana State Fair and a Purdue football game. The overall winner in the competition was an environmentally friendly soy clay shooting pigeon called EcoDisc. Other products judged in this year's competition included a soy-based coal replacement, soy after-sun lotion and soy liqueur.
The purpose of the overall competition is to encourage students to use their scientific and technical education and skills to create potential commercial products from soybeans and their components. A group of judges ranked the products into three tiers with the payout to teams ranging from $1,500 to $7,500.
ISA reports that their new uses contest looks to be even bigger for 2009. The Indiana Corn Marketing Council has joined in sponsoring a corn new uses component to the competition, and about 20 teams are working on developing new corn and soy-based products.
In South Dakota, a soyfoods contest is held annually each August at the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls. The event is sponsored by the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (SDSR&PC) and features divisions for professional chefs and non-professionals. Both divisions compete for cash prizes, and entries are judged based on taste, ease of preparation, use of soy products, nutrition and presentation.
Some of the 2008 top entries included a chipotle lime tofu wrap, chocolate cherry crème brulee and caramel corn with soynuts.
The SDSR&PC says it sponsors the soyfoods contest each year at the fair to bring attention to the healthy and tasty benefits of soy-based foods, as well as the ease with which soy can be incorporated into favorite family recipes.
Other soy competitions from around the country are also yielding innovative ideas. They report development of soy-based fortune cookies, breakfast bars, tortillas, facial cream, candy and truffles — and even shoes and bags created using fabric woven from processed soy stalk material.
One new product moving from research into the marketplace is a skateboard made from a soy-based composite developed at Cornell University by professor Anil Netravali. The composite material is made entirely from annually renewable natural plant fibers and a resin derived from soy protein, which makes the skateboards fully biodegradable — meaning they can be composted rather than sent to landfills.
Netravali and Patrick Govang formed e2e Materials to bring products made from the soy-based composite to the marketplace. Their first successful venture is with Comet Skateboards (www.cometskateboards.com) to produce “green” skateboards.
Additionally, the technology that Netravali developed can be used as a high-performance green alternative to particleboard, medium density fiberboard and other wood-based panel products. Best of all, the soy-based composites do not contain formaldehyde like traditional wood-panel products. Moreover, when compared to particleboard, e2e biocomposites are twice the strength, three times the screw retention, half the weight and require 50% less energy to produce resulting in a dramatically lower the carbon footprint.
Netravali and Govang are already working with a leading furniture company to make office furniture, and they are forging new relationships for applications in trade show booths, cabinetry, green building and the auto industry.
In 2008, Netravali's soy composite earned several major awards including beating out 91 other companies for a $100,000 prize in the EssentialConnections.org Emerging Business competition.
It may sound a little odd, but Waterless Co. LLC, a California-based company, is introducing a new line of urinals made of approximately 30% soybean resin. Eventually they hope to increase that percentage as manufacturing technology evolves.
The idea began a few years ago as the company's engineers were looking for new ways to improve their product line and help protect the environment. Waterless, no-flush urinals are already environmentally efficient; saving as much as 40,000 gal. of water annually per urinal.
The company is marketing the urinals through distributors in the U.S. with plans to eventually go international. Each urinal includes a label stating it is made partially with soybean resin.