Feed market expansion is strategic priority for Benson Hill in shift to asset-light business model

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/wildpixel
© GettyImages/wildpixel

Related tags Soy Poultry Protein Benson Hill pet food

Benson Hill has transferred ownership of its Seymour, Indiana crushing facility, which it had operated since 2021, to White River Soy Processing for about $36m in gross proceeds, subject to working capital and other adjustments.

Around 30 team members will become employees of White River, ensuring a smooth transition for customers.

And Benson Hill said it will honor contracts up to 2024 with its farmer partners who deliver grain to Seymour. The parties also expect to finalize a grain supply and licensing agreement to continue processing Benson Hill’s proprietary soybeans through the facility.

The non-GM soy producer said it is exploring options to divest its remaining manufacturing assets as it transitions to its new asset-light business model focused on expansion into animal feed markets, which would complement its food ingredient business.

The divestitures are expected to significantly lower working capital requirements and will help extend liquidity, it reported. 

Its closed-loop model catalyzed demand for innovation but is no longer sustainable. So it is moving to a new licensing model, which it believes will ensure capital efficiency, it added.

"As part of our strategic shift towards a partnership and licensing business model, we are actively discussing the divestment of our processing facilities, like the asset purchase agreement we completed today with our Seymour location. The goal is to realize an asset-light business model more quickly. This means that Benson Hill may not have in-house processing capabilities in the future and will rely on partnerships, joint ventures, and third-party processing arrangements to handle processing of our proprietary soybean genetics. We’ve already embraced that model with ADM for its human food portfolio," Christi Dixon, Benson Hill spokesperson, told us.

The company, she continued, is in active negotiations for the divestiture of the Creston, Iowa, soy facility and the Dakota Dry Bean yellow pea facility in Devils Lake, North Dakota. "Several interested parties are involved. While we can't guarantee an outcome, we are pleased with the prospect of completing the sale of these assets in the coming months. The exact timing of divestiture will depend on these negotiations."

UHP-LO soybeans

March 2020 saw Benson Hill first unveil its plans to release Ultra-High Protein (UHP) soybean varieties during the 2021 crop year. The company looks to lower the environmental impact of feed ingredients through focusing on the genetics, by developing soy crop varieties with a high protein content. Its approach is to increase protein expression in the soybean plant ​itself, so that the need for additional processing is reduced.

Its non-GMO, ultra-high-protein, and low-oligosaccharide (UHP-LO) soy ingredient has post-crush protein levels of around 60-65%. The removal of multiple processing steps creates a reduction of carbon emissions and water use, enabling feed formulators to deliver on carbon reduction commitments, Anthony Kingsley, senior director of sustainability, ESG and stakeholder engagement at Benson Hill, told us in June.

Dixon said the company is actively negotiating partnerships and licensing agreements across the value chain, which include players in the seed, animal feed and pet food spaces. "While we can't guarantee specific timelines, we are pleased with the interest we've received. Specific announcements will be made as these partnerships and deals are finalized."

The poultry and pig feed opportunity

Accelerated expansion into poultry, pig feed and pet food markets presents significant opportunity for value creation, said the US firm, which has already established supply deals​ with Riverence, the largest land-based producer of steelhead and rainbow trout in the Americas, and with aqua feed producer, BioMar​, helping both to reduce emissions through the integration of its ‘low impact’ soy ingredients into their value chains.

The company added that it recently completed an external analysis of several of its UHP-LO commercial soybean varieties, validating novel value-added attributes for poultry diets, swine rations, and pet food. 

"Our validation process involved feeding trials and nutritional analysis to assess the performance of Benson Hill's non-GMO soybeans in comparison to commodity soybeans. These trials, conducted in conjunction with Eurofins, evaluated factors such as protein content, digestibility, amino acid profiles, anti-nutritional factors, and overall nutritional benefits for poultry, swine, and pet food. The results of these trials would provide evidence of the value-added attributes and advantages of Benson Hill's soybeans in these applications," confirmed Dixon.

Benson Hill expects to expand its UHP-LO soybean portfolio with herbicide-tolerant and second-generation seed varieties in the next two to three years, which it said would help to extend its competitive advantage and diversify its market reach for different geographies and end markets.

It is conducting additional studies as the 2023 crop comes out of the field and is working with outside parties to perform feeding trials in more species.

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