Purdue University is celebrating 150 years as a land-grant university with the theme 150 Years of Giant Leaps. For Hoosier soybean farmers, one of those giant leaps is the Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition, sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and supported by Purdue. Fittingly, the soybean new-uses contest celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with a landmark event held at Purdue. Ceremonies honoring this year’s competing students were part of Purdue’s 150th celebration.
“This activity, where both Purdue students and Indiana farmers are involved, is what we’re all about here,” Mitch Daniels told the crowd as he kicked off the event. Daniels, a former two-term governor of Indiana, is Purdue’s current president.
This year’s competition involved 37 Purdue students from many schools, not just the College of Agriculture. Students spent six months formulating ideas, developing and making their product, and completing market research.
“The real value of our alliance with ISA and this competition boils down to what innovation is all about,” says Jay Akridge, Purdue provost. Akridge served nine years as dean of the College of Agriculture before being tapped by Daniels to become provost.
“It’s about vision and persistence,” he continues. “Twenty-five years ago, farmer-leaders had a vision that students could come up with new uses for soybeans. That was before real-world learning and education was a big deal. It’s a lot of what we do here today, but it wasn’t then. That speaks to the vision of those farmers and ISA board members who invested in this project in 1994.”
Just as important is the persistence it took to make sure the competition continued, Akridge says. “Projects like this don’t last 25 years,” he notes. “New leadership comes along, both in a group and a university. Typically, they have new ideas. Or a glitch typically happens, and the parties go their own ways.
“That hasn’t happened here. It’s unique and speaks of the value of the effort to ISA, soybean farmers and Purdue University. Students learn skills, work with professors who mentor them, and take that next step toward the real-world professional life.”
SPECIAL EVENT: Purdue Provost Jay Akridge outlines why the Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition sponsored by ISA and supported by Purdue is unique.
In the meantime, some important products that have become household staples originated through the competition, including soy crayons and soy candles.
“We hope this continues for another 25 years, or even another 150 years,” says Jane Ade Stevens, ISA’s executive director. “You won’t find it anywhere else in the country. Other states have tried but failed.
“We believe it works in Indiana thanks to Purdue’s commitment and support. We see the value at ISA, and Purdue sees value as well.”
Meet this year’s winning teams, learn about other interesting products, and be inspired by a member of the 1994 team that developed soy crayons — it’s all coming soon to the Indiana Prairie Farmer website.