Soybean Competition Encourages Non-Ag Students to Consider Ag Profession

Soy-based coffee filters, dry erase ink using 60% high oleic soybean oil, a soy-based circuit board, and even a fungicide that uses soy that targets the fungus responsible for Soybean Sudden Death Syndrome-those were some of the innovative products on display Wednesday evening at the Student Soybean Innovation Competition sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Purdue University.
The contest introduces Purdue students to the multi-faceted uses and vast potential of soybeans while drawing on students’ creativity to develop products that utilize soy.
The winner of the event, taking home the $20,000 grand prize, was Team Smulch.
“We developed a soy-based rubber mulch that can be used in gardens or on playgrounds,” says Purdue freshman Libby Plassard who is majoring in business management and finance from West Lafayette. “We also developed a second prototype that was like a playground surfacing kind of thing, the squishy playground that you’d see for kids. If they fall, they’re not going to hurt themselves.”
Her teammates were Ethan Miller, a freshman studying biochemistry from Lafayette and Zuhal Cakir, a student working on her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Bursa, Turkey.
Plassard noted that none of them have a background in agriculture. They just heard about the contest and thought it sounded like fun. Now, she’s considering a future in agriculture.
“I just didn’t fully understand how big the agricultural industry is. Even though I’ve lived in Indiana my whole life, I drive by soybean fields every day, you’d think I would know, but until this competition I didn’t really fully understand that. Honestly, this competition has made me interested in the agriculture business, possibly pursuing an ag business degree or an ag business minor. Just getting to meet all these farmers and getting to meet the people that that do this work, it’s been a really cool experience to just kind of see how the whole industry works because it’s huge.”
Plassard says an internship is available this summer that would allow them to continue to fulfill their product. After the contest, the Indiana Soybean Alliance works to develop the products submitted and evaluates their long-term feasibility and commercial viability.
There were more prizes awarded Wednesday night at the Purdue Memorial Union. Read more on the event here.

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