The Future Looks Bright Thanks To Soy-Based Innovation

Soybean Harvest

Imagine a sustainable, renewable future where the world runs on soy-based innovation.

Human activity would carry a smaller carbon footprint. Agriculture, meanwhile, would be at the forefront of technological advancements few would have imagined a generation ago.

There’s good news for farmers and consumers alike: That bright, soy-based future is already here.

Thanks to research supported by soybean farmers through their checkoff, we are developing more new uses for soybeans than ever before and supplying real-world solutions to some of our world’s most pressing challenges.

And that is translating to greater demand and overall market stability for soybeans grown right here in South Dakota.

The instrumental role of new-use research

Jason Frerichs
Jason Frerichs

“Research is a large component of how we invest [checkoff] dollars here in South Dakota,” said Jason Frerichs. He farms near Wilmot, SD, and serves as chairman of the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.

From his perspective, this level of investment in research is essential “for making sure that our soybean checkoff is not only relevant now, but in the future.”

As a checkoff board member and previously a state legislator, Frerichs has long advocated for research and development around new uses for soybeans. To that end, he has played a role in the formation of the POET Bioproducts Institute, on which contractors broke ground this spring in Brookings. The state-of-the-art research facility is on track to open by the end of 2023.

“The POET Bioproducts Institute will hopefully be the go-to place to make sure that new uses for soybean products are discovered,” said Frerichs. “But it doesn't just stay there; we want to partner with private industry to make sure those products get out to consumers.”

“That's why we're in this industry,” he added. “That's why we want to make sure that soybean farmers are able to be successful and make money.”

Soy-based innovation abounds

Frerich’s hopes are already becoming a reality. Soybean innovation isn’t just theoretical or happening on a small scale; new uses for soybeans are increasingly finding their way into our everyday lives. Here are just a few ways soy-based products are changing the future before our eyes:

  • Biofuels
    Demand for biodiesel, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel is at an all-time high. And with new soybean processing plants coming online now and in the near future, our growing capacity to meet that demand promises to make these soy-based fuels a sustainable solution to our world’s energy needs.
  • Tires and Shoes
    The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has partnered with checkoff research efforts to develop a new tire that utilizes soy to put a durable, more environmentally responsible tire on the road. This same technology has also crossed over to rubber soles for shoes manufactured by Skechers.
  • Road Sealants
    In recent years, government agencies and municipalities have begun applying soy-based asphalt and concrete sealants to protect our highways and roads. Both products are cost-effective, sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based sealants.
  • Artificial Grass
    Soy-based turf has found its way onto the football field at South Dakota State University’s Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium and Main Street Square in Rapid City, among other locations throughout the state and across the country. This innovative technology utilizes soy-based polymers while drastically reducing water use and maintenance costs.

Driving demand for South Dakota soybeans

South Dakota Soybean Executive Director Jerry Schmitz said this sort of innovation is a critically important part of the checkoff

Tim Ostrem & Mayor Paul TenHaken
Tim Ostrem & Mayor Paul TenHaken

strategy.

“We are continually looking for those new uses,” said Schmitz, who balances his role with South Dakota Soybean with his own farm operation outside Vermillion. “We want to drive demand. And so anytime that we find a product — whether that's a preservative for roads or tires on vehicles or rubber on the shoes you’re wearing — it means a tremendous amount.”

Schmitz noted that one of the most frequent questions he hears from fellow farmers pertains to how checkoff dollars are utilized. So whenever a new use for soybeans emerges, he is reminded of the impact research has on supporting soybean demand.

Just in the past couple of years, Schmitz has witnessed the

application of new soy-based sealants on roads and bridges, the introduction of soy-based tires to state highway patrol vehicles and a pilot program to begin using B20 biodiesel in City of Sioux Falls fleet vehicles — a move that will decrease the city’s use of petroleum diesel fuel by 24,000 gallons.

“That’s a perfect example where utilizing soy checkoff dollars to do research and then come up with a product that can be used worldwide,” said Schmitz. “It's pretty exciting.”

Schmitz is proud of South Dakota Soybean’s ongoing work to support innovative research into new uses and drive demand for soybeans. To learn more about these efforts, you can visit sdsoybean.org or follow South Dakota Soybean on social media.