Getting Hands-On with Soy

Getting Hands-On with Soy

By Christine Tew

Tours of the Center for Soy Innovation focus on more than interactive educational exhibits and sustainability. For many visitors to the Center, especially farmers, a tour is a chance to see their soybeans in action.

That action begins even before entering the building. At the Center for Soy Innovation, the parking lot is part of the tour.

Soy-based biodiesel is part of the facility’s educational space as well, where visitors have the opportunity to experience fueling up with biodiesel at a real pump.

“Bringing folks in, it’s so important that we show them all the ways soy impacts their lives,” says Gary Wheeler, CEO and executive director for Missouri’s soybean organizations. “That’s at the heart of the mission for the Center.”

In the parking lot, Cargill’s Anova Asphalt Rejuvenator uses soy to extend the life of asphalt. Soybean oil replaces petroleum in the rejuvenator, which incorporates recycled materials and improves cold weather performance.

Once on the sidewalk, visitors have another opportunity to experience soy in action.

The team from SYNLawn® in Kansas City partnered with the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council to highlight soy-based artificial turf outside the grain-bin entryway and inside the Center.

The Jefferson City installation of SYNLawn® makes for more than 70 million square feet of the soy-backed turf, which is recognized by the USDA BioPreferred program as a renewable choice because of its soy content.

The Center for Soy Innovation is a hub for innovation and a show- place for soy products that have come to the marketplace, from paints and resins to heating systems and insulation. Visitors have the opportunity to see the products in action firsthand.

Visitors can get a closer look at the soybased-turf inside, where SYNLawn® also donated a putting green – perfect for visitors to see how a soy option might fit into activities they already enjoy.

Many of the soy-based products were sourced through the USDA BioPreferred program, which is focused on market development and expansion for biobased products, including those made with soy.

“For the Center, we worked with partners across industry – from companies like Cargill to USDA and USB, along with our architects, to source the renewable and soy-based materials,” Wheeler says. “It was important to our mission for the Merchandising Council and for the project to showcase what is available in the marketplace now, and to give farmers and the community a chance to see the products firsthand.”

Research played a significant role in sourcing, both in evaluating products available through the BioPreferred program and in identifying Missouri- based options for as many of the soy-based products as possible.

The Soy Products Guide, a searchable online database from the United Soybean Board and soy checkoff proved helpful for business development and building staff in that work. The guide categorizes products by use and
by company location, putting the list of Missouri-based businesses working with soy close at hand. The database is available via

One of the Missouri-based soy options was for countertops. Eco-Tech, located in south-central Missouri’s St. James, produced the highly durable solid surface material that includes soy resin. The material is resistant to flame, staining, impact and other damage, and is lighter weight than both acrylic and polyester-based options. The countertops have a minimum 53 percent renewable/recycled content, including recycled glass from automobile windshields.

While not widely available, the Eco- Tech product is installed throughout the Center for Soy Innovation.

Several of the soy-based materials used in the Center for Soy Innovation are more widely available for home use, including paints, carpet and insulation.

Sherwin Williams’ ProMar 200 acrylic soy-based paint is put to the test at the Center, used on surface metal structural steel, columns, beams, bracing and the roof joist trusses.

Similarly, the Center’s ADM conference room features soy-based carpet backing. The BioCel by Signature carpet is made for commercial, high-traffic areas with backing made from natural oils, including soybean oil, rather than petroleum. The carpet also includes recycled plastic water bottles and is recognized for emitting lower VOC levels for improved indoor air quality.

Keeping staff and guests comfortable within the Center was a top priority in the design process, Wheeler explains.

Visitors have the opportunity to see soy-based insulation and heating during their time at the Center, and are encouraged to get ‘up close and personal’ with the materials and systems.

“We knew we wanted to use the soy- based insulation,” he said. “Working with the company and our architects, we put the Heatlok in all our exterior walls. It’s been a good experience, from installation to day-to-day operations.”

The Heatlok Soy 200 insulation is a rigid spray foam made from soybean oil
and recycled plastic. It’s recognized for moisture protection and vapor retardant properties, as well as its resistance to thermal transfer.

One place it wasn’t used: interior walls.

“The rigid spray foam doesn’t give us the sound dampening we need in the office and for meeting rooms,” Wheeler says.

The tank on the front of the building, made possible in part by the MFA Oil Foundation, fuels the Center’s heating system with soy-based biodiesel.

Putting the soy spin on comfort within the Center didn’t stop there. The facility also gets its warmth from soybean oil. Specifically, the furnace brings technology from colder climates, especially the Northeastern U.S., to the Midwest.

The variable-speed furnace runs on biodiesel, sourced locally from MFA Oil. An integrated monitoring system shows tank conditions for the fuel.

For more information about soy-based products and to learn more about Missouri’s soybean organizations and the Center for Soy Innovation, visit

You can also schedule your tour of the new Center through the Contact Us tab.

Photos by Jason Jenkins, Mill Creek Communications. Find the entire August issue here.