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Purdue students are recognized for new soybean use ideas during annual contest.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

May 19, 2021

3 Min Read
harvested soybeans in grain cart
SOY PRODUCTS: The goal of the Student Soybean Innovation Competition is to fill a current need in the marketplace with a product that contains some form of soybeans, ultimately finding potential for a product that a company might want to market commercially.fotokostic/Getty Images

Two years ago, the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Purdue University celebrated 25 years of a jointly sponsored competition that produces potential new uses of soybeans each year. The Student Soybean Innovation Competition continues, and although a public, live ceremony recognizing students and unveiling their creations hasn’t been held since that special celebration, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, new uses generated in the 2021 competition are still exciting.

Teams of Purdue students begin months ahead of the competition date, working across school disciplines and receiving mentoring from Purdue faculty members. The goal is to fill a current need in the marketplace with a product that contains some form of soybeans. Ultimately, the end goal is to find potential for a product that a company might want to market commercially.

The winning team in the 27th annual competition developed a liquid biostimulant using soybean products. Emmanuel Alagbe, Ibadan, Nigeria; Nate Nauman, West Lafayette, Ind.; and Cai Chen, Elmont, N.Y.; targeted a specific niche: creating a biostimulant to promote growth in crops raised in vertical farms. This type of farming, which involves growing crops indoors, is already large in Europe, and appears poised to take off in the U.S.

The students explain that biostimulants help crops germinate rapidly and achieve greater plant mass and yield. They improve nutrient uptake. However, they’re not fertilizers or pesticides. There are already products in this space, but they don’t use soybean ingredients.

liquid biostimulant made from soy

Alagbe says their product can improve growth rate and ease stress. Their new product, which is 98% soy, is unique because soy protein peptides have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Biostimulants are often used on lettuce, and lettuce can become contaminated with pathogens that cause foodborne illness, such as listeria. It’s possible that biostimulants containing soy could decrease the risk for pathogens to contaminate food.   

Other soy products

The second-place team created a hypoallergenic athletic tape. The call it Arachnitape. It’s water-resistant but still supportive, which should help athletes. Team members include Andres Dextre, Lima, Peru; Erick Forkpah, Greensboro, N.C.; Sarah Hefner, Indianapolis; and Jieun Grace Lee, Daejon, South Korea.

Team Soykind created an eco-friendly replacement for cosmetic face masks. Their innovation earned them third place in the competition. What makes their product unique compared to cosmetic face masks on the market today is that it is completely biodegradable. Team members include Luke DeLong, Sullivan, Ill.; Vy Vee Le, Sugar Land, Texas; and Shulin Wang, Jining, China.

When the final competition is held live, people attending the ceremony visit the various teams and cast a ballot for their favorite product. It’s called the People’s Choice award. Viewers online during the virtual event voted this year after hearing from all competing teams.

The People’s Choice award in 2021 went to Team Soyrenity. The team created a transdermal patch for patients who suffer from bone density pain or to sooth symptoms related to menopause. Team members are Natasha Abraham, New York; John Mutter, Grayslake, Ill.; and Diana Ramirez-Guiterrez, Bogota, Colombia.

Learn more about the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the competition at

Information provided by the Indiana Soybean Alliance was used in this article.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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