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USB targets soybean meal for innovation challenge

The U.S. is expected to increase soybean meal production, and new uses will be necessary to keep market value.

Steven Kilger 2 Headshot
Photo courtesy of United Soybean Board (USB)
Photo courtesy of United Soybean Board (USB)

The United Soybean Board (USB) and the Yield Lab Institute (YLI) have launched the second Soy Innovation Challenge.

This innovation challenge is putting the focus on increasing the value of soybean meal created by the increase in soybean oil demand.

The contest is looking for:

  • Innovations that increase the use and value for soybean meal in animal agriculture, aquaculture, pet foods and soyfoods for human consumption.
  • Innovations that advance the commercial viability of existing uses and segments in both food and feed spaces, overcoming the technical challenges of increasing soybean meal usage.
  • Innovations that advance the transportability and storage viability of soybean meal.

Soybean meal production will increase alongside crushing capacity

The second Soy Innovation Challenge comes during an uptick of new soybean crush plant projects across the country.

The Feed & Grain cover story on grain handling projects, Grain Handling Construction Projects Across the Nation, showed 12 of the 21 grain handling and processing projects were soybean crush facilities.

Gordon Denny, general manager of Gordon Denny, a consulting business specializing in the production, marketing and processing aspects of the soybean and grain industries, explained the reason behind the trend.

“I think the industry is spending $5.5 to $6 billion over the next three to four years to get new processing plants built to increase the crush capacity,” says Denny. “And the demand is primarily coming from the renewable diesel and the sustainable aviation fuel trends that initiated in California.”

The rise in soybean crush facilities is a boon for soybean producers, who now have a reliable market for their products. But demand for soybean meal, a byproduct of the soybean crushing process, hasn’t risen alongside the oil.

“The oil can go away," said Denny. "That’s not a huge problem because the demand is going to be there, the refineries are already converting over, that's going to be taken care of.

"But you can't really store soybean meal, it takes up a lot of volume, it's not easy to handle once it sets for a while," he continued. "Getting rid of the soybean meal is going to be a significant issue and opportunity. We do increase consumption of soybean meal every year, but this is going to be a cathartic jump in production.”

Prizes will be split among finalists

The last Soy Innovation Challenge focused on disruptive innovators and received over 80 submissions, with rewards being split between seven finalists.

The number of finalists that will be chosen for this contest hasn’t been revealed, but they will split $170,000 in cash prizes courtesy of USB.

Each finalist will also receive $5,000 in in-kind technical services and credits from Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Applications will be accepted through December 6 and can be submitted at the YLI website, but requires participants to create an account.

Ag-tech startups, project/research teams and groups that operate in the soybean meal value chain are encouraged to sign up.

“With a favorable market for soy, an increased interest in enhancing the existing value of soybean meal is often forgotten in the equation," said Brandon Day, COO of YLI.

"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."

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