June 2, 2020
New technology in any crop is big news these days, as companies leverage their germplasm and big data to enhance the quality, yield or another aspect of the crops you raise. One innovator that’s caught a bit of attention is Benson Hill and its Benson Hill Seeds division.
The company recently noted it has developed an ultra-high-protein soybean that could cut processing costs and meet a growing need for plant-based protein. The company also has other interesting soybean products in its portfolio, including low-linolenic-acid soybeans and high-oleic soybeans. The key now is to boost production, and that’s what happened for 2020. The company has announced it was able to contract 30,000 acres for planting its advanced crop this year.
“We’re really in a variety of areas across the United States,” says Chris Wilkins, chief operating officer, Benson Hill. “We have a heavy focus on more traditional soybean areas in the Midwest, South and East. We’re hitting a geographically dispersed area where buyers need product.”
The Benson Hill Seeds model is to match the soybean to the buyer and meet a growing demand for the quality traits being offered. Wilkins says that the process involves working with those buyers to meet specific needs, both for quality and eventual quantity.
He notes the 30,000-acre commitment was higher than the company's initial target, and a sign that those retail buyers are looking for those traits. “We are working to line up what we have to meet partner demands,” he says. “We want to expand those opportunities.”
With this product, Benson Hill Seeds has to go through a “proof-of-concept” phase to show the food or aquaculture buyer that what’s promised is what will be delivered. He notes that when working with a new partner, “You have to walk before you can run.”
When traveling the country, chances are you won’t see a Benson Hill Seeds sign. Wilkins explains that the company has contracted with a variety of farmers and is working to create a “win-win across the value points,” so those farmers get a premium to produce the seed. As for who the buyer is?
“We are very careful with our partner relations,” he says. “We’re transparent in our discussion with elevators, and we have a variety of ways to meet the soy supply chain.”
Yet the company maintains confidentiality for those final buyers who are looking at new ways to incorporate higher-quality protein into their products. In essence, the Benson Hill product is becoming a point of competition for those buyers.
“We won’t be on the end label,” Wilkins says. He adds that the buyer may benefit from the higher protein offered by the soybeans, or the added capabilities of changed oil properties. “Those are things they can advertise, but we are not on the end label,” he says.
Finding farmers to raise the seed was no problem. Wilkins says the company was able to line up some very experienced farmers who “see a value in that specialty area.” He notes those growers, like many, are looking for more ways to drive added value into the market and gain a more consistent opportunity in the marketplace.
You can learn more at bensonhillseeds.com.
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