Soybean-Powered Firefighting: A Sustainable Solution Igniting Safety and Environmental Protection

April 4, 2024

It doesn’t take long for Andy Weisser to cover the distance between his Edmonds County farm and Roscoe, South Dakota, where he’s the assistant chief of the town’s volunteer fire department. Because of his deep interest in serving the community by putting out fires, Weisser, one of the newest members of the South Dakota Soybean Association Board of Directors, accepted an invitation to travel to Dalton, Georgia, to visit a plant that makes a fire suppressant out of soybeans.

“Yeah, what a trip,” exclaimed Weisser, referring to the demonstrations of Cross Plains Solutions’ Soyfoam TF 1122. “It was fun, it was neat. It was neat to learn about this stuff.”

Weisser manages to be on call with other Roscoe volunteer firefighters by relying on family members to take his place on the planter or to feed cattle at a moment’s notice. So, why would a fire suppressant be soy-based?

“Why soy-based,” he ventured. “First of all, it’s natural; it’s a soy product, it’s what we grow. Why not utilize something that we grow, something that’s biodegradable, that’s, to me, very safe to put [fires] out? I mean, it’s kind of a neat little circle.”

The website of the manufacturer, Cross Plains Solutions, says Soyfoam TF 1122 controls fires safely while removing harmful chemicals. Weisser explains further.

“What a soy foam would do is it’s going to choke out the oxygen on a fire, it’s going to coat it, coat the fuel to choke it out,” he said. “You remove the oxygen from the fire and that’s what it does.”

What’s more, the soy-based suppressant effectively quadruples the amount of water the department takes to a fire.

“Like if you use normal water on a fire, you’re going to cool down the heat of a fire; you’re going to knock down the flame, but it can flare back up,” said Weisser. “Soyfoam will coat it, blanket it, keep the fire knocked down for a longer period of time.”

The current foams used to fight fires are effective, but unfortunately environmentally toxic, which Weisser says is not the case with soy-based foam.

“This Soyfoam would be a safer product. That is one huge benefit that it has,” Weisser pointed out. “We’re used to this PFOS and the PFAS foam, which would be a Class A, ordinary combustible, and a Class B, flammable liquids [fire suppressant]. So, this Soyfoam is really kind of a neat situation, because it does actually take care of a Class A and Class B fire.”

It's easy to get caught up in Weisser’s exuding enthusiasm in his description of the more than 70 percent biobased fire extinguishing foam made from soybeans. Weisser is just as enthused about how he became a farmer and what motivated his run for the South Dakota Soybean Association Board. He talks about it in an edition of the Soybean POD, available wherever podcasts are delivered. During that podcast, he also explains how small towns rely on volunteers to help keep them safe.

“I get a little excited about fire stuff,” he chuckled. “It’s a neat rush.”chat