US: Soy innovation challenge launched

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/JJ Gouin
© GettyImages/JJ Gouin

Related tags Soybean meal

The United Soybean Board (USB), which works on behalf of US soy farmers, and The Yield Lab Institute (YLI) are challenging companies to innovate to increase the use and value of soybean meal (SBM) in existing markets.

They have just launched the Soy Innovation Challenge.

“Soybean oil demand is increasing as a feedstock for renewable energy, creating unique opportunities for soybean farmers. But an increase in expanded crush for oil means higher meal supply. With US soybean meal’s strong reputation as a high value product, additional pathways are necessary to advance consumption both domestically and internationally,”​ said Ralph Lott, USB chair and farmer.

A transformation is underway in the US soybean market, says former Bunge procurement director, Gordon Denny, who also advices the United Soybean Board.

We spoke to him in June​ and he told us the domestic soybean crush sector is about to experience a major overhaul given the projected processing expansions. 

He also maintains that the US soy industry is slowing shifting away from a volume over value model. 

The market for SBM is limited by the demand constraints of US poultry and livestock production, as well as competition from alternative ingredients, storage capacity and transportation challenges, said the partners. The contest aims to solve these problems.

The initiative is seeking innovation that boosts the use and value for SBM in livestock farming, aquaculture, pet food and food, that advances the commercial viability of existing uses and segments in both the food and feed space.

The organizers also want applicants to submit ideas in relation to overcoming technical challenges linked to increasing soybean meal usage, including how to improve the transportability and storage viability of SBM.

“This competition has the potential to create unique revenue streams for US soybean farmers in meeting customers’ evolving preferences,”​ said Mac Marshall, USB vice president of market intelligence.”

Soybean meal with higher protein content 

In May this year, Perdue AgriBusiness backed technology designed to boost oil and protein content of soybeans ​without risking yield. It established a collaboration with US startup, Zeakal, which tweaks genetic crop traits to improve their rates of photosynthesis.

In soybeans, that startup claims its PhotoSeed technology has consistently resulted in improved oil and protein content while improving the sustainability index of the crop. It reported that during the 2021 growing season PhotoSeed soybean events increased oil composition by 12% while increasing protein by one point.

Perdue AgriBusiness handles about three million acres’ worth of soybeans per year. Transforming this acreage to PhotoSeed soy, it said, means growers will benefit from a higher value crop and Perdue gains access to beans with improved oil and higher protein in the resulting meal.

Cash prizes

The application period for the Soy Innovation Challenge opened this week and runs through to December 6.

USB and YLI are calling on agtech startups, project/research teams and groups to submit applications online. The challenge is sponsored by USB and Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the selected teams will compete for:

  • US$170,000 in cash prizes courtesy of USB.
  • US$5,000 in in-kind technical services and credits per finalist courtesy of AWS.

All selected teams will receive mentoring and resources to help advance their ideas in the areas of technical, business, and financial impact, said the partners.

“With a favorable market for soy, an increased interest in enhancing the existing value of soybean meal is often forgotten in the equation. This innovation challenge will uncover ideas and technologies that will drive more value for soybean meal and its constituents within existing markets and uses. This is truly an exercise in circular economy and optimizing the bean,”​ said Brandon Day, COO of YLI.

The Yield Lab Institute is a non-profit, agtech think tank focused on supporting, advancing global agtech startups, entrepreneurs and ecosystems.

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