'Soybeans might be our salvation." That's what Darreld Domeier, manager of Bruning Grain and Feed, said in 1996 when discussing the elevator's future.

Three years later, it appears that Domeier was right. Thanks in large part to a unique extrusion/expelling process, the Bruning, NE, company doubled its soybean meal volume by 1998, and another 20% increase is expected this year.

The soybean meal is for livestock feeds, and the oil is used to make Soy Bio-Drip, an environmentally friendly drip oil for irrigation systems.

Typically, drip oil is used in irrigation systems to lubricate bearings in the turbine pump.

"More and more people are hearing about Soy Bio-Drip and requesting information," says Rick Emery, the company's director of marketing. "We're expanding as the demand calls for it."

The drip oil is sold via a dealer network in several states, including Kansas, Nebraska, California and Texas. It sells for around $5 per gallon.

"Farmers are very good stewards of the land and I think that they can see that it's a good idea to switch from petroleum-based drip oil to soybean-based drip oil," says Emery.

Bruning Grain and Feed is ideally suited to manufacture the all-natural drip oil because it processes soybeans mechanically without the use of chemicals.

The extrusion/expelling process helped the company secure an exclusive technology transfer agreement with the University of Nebraska's Industrial Agricultural Products Center, the developer of Soy Bio-Drip. Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Co. is involved in ongoing research on the drip oil, with funding from the Nebraska Soybean Board.

The unique green color of Soy Bio-Drip and the package of additives used to make it are patented by Bruning Grain and Feed.

Another new product, Opti-Coat, is a soybean oil-based supplement for racehorses. The company also has sold some of it to Middle Eastern customers who feed it to racing camels.