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Kentucky Soybean Farmers announce winners of Soy Innovation Challenge

Prestigious Scholarships - December 29, 2021



Kentucky soybean farmers and soybean farmers in the United States are experts in growing soybeans. So many, in fact, that finding new uses for this versatile renewable resource is a big job. Some innovative uses for soy components include soy-based tires, shoe treads, asphalt, concrete admixtures, lubricants, and perhaps the greatest benefit in the history of soy use, biodiesel.


The Kentucky Soybean Board partnered with the University of Louisville for its inaugural Soybean Innovation Challenge, seeking potentially marketable soy-based concepts and prototypes. Student teams, under the supervision of a faculty member, presented concepts to the Board through Zoom in September. Seed funding was awarded to four concepts to develop those concepts, and final projects were presented to the Board at its December 17 meeting in Lexington.


The winner of the Kentucky Soybean Board 2021 Soy Innovation Challenge and a $10,000 prize is Athira Nair Surendran’s team and Dr. Sreesha Malayil. His concept, developed through work at the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research, is to make supercapacitors using activated carbon derived from soybean hull fibers. The premise of this project is that soybean hulls can be used to feed livestock with a low rate of yield for farmers, or they can be used to produce activated carbon and carbon used for 3D printing of supercapacitors, which are basically batteries, and are used for a wide variety of applications with a much higher rate of performance. Key findings and expectations in the proposal included the possibility of multiple value-added products, less energy used to develop this product, controlled emissions, no effluent, and no additional waste.

Of particular interest to the leading farmers that make up the Kentucky Soybean Board was this project’s focus on increasing crowding in future years and the potential revenue that could be made from soybean hulls, a by-product of crowding. As board chair Larry Thomas put it, “cool new uses are great, but new uses that can provide a significant return on investment to the soy farmers we represent will get my vote every time.”


Second place, winning $ 5,000, was a project titled I Am 3D, developed and presented by Saleh Khanjar. This project focuses on something that most of us use every day: a car or a truck. Khanjar referenced the soy car that Henry Ford experimented with in the 1940s. Using soy polymers instead of plastics made from petroleum can make a car more renewable and sustainable, while reducing the weight of the car. vehicle up to 1,000 lbs. Under Khanjar’s proposal, in 2019 the light vehicle industry in North America required 2.9 million tons of plastics and polymeric compounds. If ALL of those parts were replaced with soy polymers, that could create a demand for 32 million bushels of soy a year.


Two other concepts received seed capital from September filings. The SoyData project included the creation of a database of profiles of amino acids and other compounds in vegetable oils, and the methods used to produce different types of resin, so that scientists looking for raw materials have a central source of data on a variety of inputs. options and the possibility of developing an application to make it easier for manufacturers to understand the routes to soy-based resins. The final project that was presented had a more agronomic twist and focused on the genetic modification of soybeans for drought resistance. These two project development teams received $1,000 each for their efforts.


In addition to the effort made by students and teachers advisors, the board thanks Jagannadh Satyavolu, Ph.D., Research Professor in Renewable Energy and Biofuel and Biomass Conversion Topic Leader at Conn Center, UofL, for his efforts and enthusiasm in overseeing this project. Dr. Satyavolu has been an outstanding resource to the Board in its effort to launch the Soy Innovation Challenge, which is intended to be an annual event.

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