A group of students from Purdue University has developed an organic additive designed to promote crops in vertical farms. The primary ingredient of the liquid biostimulant is soybeans. The innovation earned the team top honors during the 27th annual Student Soybean Innovation Competition sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance.
To win this competition, Purdue University students must develop novel applications for soybeans that satisfy a market need.
“The goal of this contest is to highlight the versatility of soybeans while addressing a need in agriculture or the general public,” said Anngie Steinbarger, a farmer from Edinburgh and one of the judges for the contest. “This biostimulant is mostly made of a soybean protein, and it has been developed to help grow crops. This seems like a slam dunk for what we want from this competition.”
The soybean alliance says biostimulants help crops germinate rapidly, achieve greater plant mass and yield, and improve nutrient uptake. The team says its organic product is not a fertilizer, but it does improve grow rate and ease crop stress.
“One of the major successes we saw with our product is how great it worked with lettuce we’ve grown in the greenhouse,” said Purdue Sophomore Cai Chen, who is a member of the winning team.
Chen says when biostimulant was added to lettuce, it was 30% larger than standard lettuce.
In addition to Chen, the other members of the team include Nate Nauman, a sophomore from West Lafayette and graduate student Emmanuel Alagbe of Nigeria. They will share the competition’s $20,000 top prize.
The team says soy protein peptides have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties which could help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses in leafy greens.
Second place was awarded to a team that developed a hypoallergenic tape for athletes. Third place honors went to the creators of a biodegradable cosmetic face mask.
“Indiana soybean checkoff funds are used to find new uses and new markets for our soybeans; thereby creating demand and helping our farms to be more profitable and sustainable,” said Steinbarger. “Some of the products that evolve out of this contest could potentially have a positive impact on our soybean prices.”