Student inventors at Purdue University have developed a soybean-based mulch, an alternative to wood mulch, to keep children safe on the playground. Their idea earned top honors at the 28th annual Student Soybean Innovation Competition at Purdue.
The competition, sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance, challenges student teams to come-up with new ways to use soybeans that satisfy a market need.
Purdue says the product, Smulch, is safe for children to pick up and play with as a playground surface. It can also be used in gardens and is biodegradable.
“The goal of the competition is to showcase the versatility of soybeans while tackling a need in agriculture or the general public,” said Denise Scarborough, chair of ISA’s Sustainability and Value Creation Committee. “The results of this event expand opportunities and markets for all Indiana soybean growers.”
Team Smulch, who earned a $20,000 prize, consists of Libby Plassard, a freshman majoring in business management from West Lafayette, Ethan Miller, a freshman studying biochemistry from Lafayette, and Zuhal Cakir, a student working on a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Bursa, Turkey.
“We wanted to create something that was going to be safe for those who were around it and safe for the environment that it is in,” said Plassard, one of the winning team members. “We kind of looked for a problem that needed to be solved. We didn’t want to make a soy-based product just to make a soy-based product. We wanted to fix a problem.”
Following the contest, ISA works to develop the products, evaluate their long-term feasibility and commercial viability.
Ten teams consisting of 29 Purdue students and 20 faculty advisors took part in the competition.
The second-place team developed a soy-based ink for markers that can be used on dry-erase boards. Third place finishers created a 100% biodegradable agricultural mulch film.