One year ago, the Indiana Soybean Alliance gathered in the suites of Ross-Ade Stadium at Purdue University to celebrate the 25th annual Student Soybean Innovation Competition awards. Guests sampled products and visited with the contestants — the inventors themselves.
This year’s celebration was virtual, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the winners aren’t any less accomplished. And as Jane Ade Stevens, former CEO of ISA, now retired, predicted a year ago, the contest is set up to continue for another 25 years and beyond. She said then that there is no other student competition like this one anywhere else in the country. Others have tried but haven’t succeeded. The contest remains a testament to cooperation among ISA, its farmer-members, and Purdue University’s faculty and staff.
This year, 12 teams finished the competition. Some 36 students made it to the finish line. Work on these projects usually begins in the fall, as students formulate ideas and then line up with faculty who can provide guidance. The 2019 winning team produced Stroy, which are biodegradable straws made from soybeans. This year’s teams continued the goal of seeking to use soybeans in products geared to meet the needs of consumers in a more environmentally friendly way than current products on the market do.
The winning product from the very first competition 26 years ago is still on the market: soy crayons. Soy candles also originated as a winning entry from this competition. ISA invests in attempting to continue development of potentially viable commercial products after the competition is over.
This year’s winning entry is a herbicide that uses soybeans. The winning team placed second in 2019, developing a wood-finishing product made from soy nanaocellulose.
ISA provides cash awards to the winning teams. The competition will begin again in the fall. For a closer look at the top three winning entries, plus the People’s Choice award, which was selected by viewers on Facebook rather than a panel of judges, check out the slideshow accompanying this article.