Soy Innovation Celebration

By Christine Tew

The Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council’s efforts to drive research and education for all things soy are starting 2020 by ‘leveling up’ through new opportunities with the new Center for Soy Innovation. The Center is the result of a years-long planning process, followed by more than a year of construction, and stands to connect developments in soybean innovation with farmers and industry partners, as well as the community.

The grand opening of the Center for Soy Innovation capped a multi-year planning and construction project for Missouri’s soybean organizations and kicked off a new wave of opportunities for partnership, education and the bright future for soy.

“This is bringing our number one crop and our soybean research to people in a very real way, communicating the impact soybean have on our lives every day,” said Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council chairman Robert Alpers of Prairie Home. “The Center for Soy Innovation is our answer to ‘Who and what are we going to be to the farmers of Missouri for the next 20 years?’, and we’re very proud of this path forward.”

The Center was built on land purchased by the Missouri Soybean Association to support the project. The nearly 5-acre tract in western Jefferson City was previously owned by the Stockman family and has strong agricultural roots, having been the site of both a railroad spur and anhydrous plant.

The Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council broke ground on the project in July 2018. Both soybean organizations’ boards of directors and staff worked closely with Jefferson City-based The Architects Alliance to develop the building concept, design plans and scout locations.

The Center for Soy Innovation brings together many organizations working with and on behalf of Missouri’s soybean growers in one location, including the Missouri Soybean Association and Merchandising Council, the Biodiesel Coalition of Missouri and Foundation for Soy Innovation, as well as the administrative functions for farmer-owned biodiesel plants, Missouri Farmers Care and the Ag Education on the Move™ program.

The Center further serves as a hub for business development and incubation, as well as value-added agriculture.

The biodiesel-fueled heating system was a draw for many attendees.

“There’s no other facility like this bringing together education and conference space with the Missouri-based research and commercialization work on environmentally friendly, soy-based products,” Alpers said. “We look forward to hosting school groups, hands-on trainings, workshops and events – better serving soybean farmers and better connecting with people who might not have strong personal ties to agriculture.”

The facility showcases soy-based building materials and demonstrates new uses for soybean, from soy-based counter tops, flooring and insulation to turf, asphalt sealant and a biodiesel- fueled heating system. The soy-based materials and options include:

• Soy-based Countertops and Partitions by EcoTec Surfaces

• Soy-Based Carpet Backing-BioCelby Signature

• Wall Insulation-Heatlok Soy 200

• ProMar 200 Acrylic Soy-based Paint by Sherwin Williams

• Quiet Comfort 86 Oil Furnace fueled by biodiesel

• Anova Soy-based Asphalt Rejuvenator by Cargill

Visitors to the Center will also see soy-based artificial turf by SynLawn on the front walkway, and a grain bin vestibule courtesy of Bruce Martin Construction and GSI.

Inside the building, hands-on educational exhibits, including a soy foods-focused activity table, are perfect for kids and school groups. A “spinning wall” gives visitors the chance to test their knowledge of soy uses, and a fuel pump, courtesy of MFA Oil Company, is the perfect setting for a biodiesel selfie while learning about the renewable fuel.

Artificial soybean plants show each growth stage of the crop, giving visitors a chance to see beans firsthand year-round.

Throughout the Center, photos of Missouri farms and agribusiness, along with soybeans in action, come to life thanks to vinyl work by Envision Signs and Wraps of Eldon, Mo.

The Center also highlights water quality, with a bioretention basin at the rear of the property fitted with a soil bed planted with native vegetation and pollinator plots. A water quality monitoring station is planned for installation this spring.

Opening the Doors

Soy doughnuts were a hit at the grand opening, honoring both the rich history and the future of soy foods in one delicious treat.

The Center’s grand opening celebration featured tours of the facility and a group photo captured by drone – complete with a ribbon cutting thanks to the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce ambassadors. Soy doughnuts, a longtime tradition of the organization, were served, paired with milk courtesy of Midwest Dairy and Jefferson City’s Central Dairy.

The events were hosted by Alpers and Missouri Soybean Association president Ronnie Russell of Richmond, and included congratulatory remarks from Missouri Governor Mike Parson, American Soybean Association CEO Ryan Findlay and the United Soybean Board’s Mace Thornton, vice president of communications and marketing. The Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council’s immediate past-chairman, John Kelley of Faucett, asked a blessing on the project.

Governor Mike Parson encouraged Columbia FFA members at the grand opening to come forward, recognizing the next generation of agriculture being engaged with farmers and the Center for Soy Innovation.

“Missouri Soybean has a foundation of farmers coming together to solve problems, from developing markets for beans to ensuring farmers’ freedom
to operate,” Russell said. “This is both a celebration of that rich history and
a huge step forward in growing our relationships with all who rely on soy – our mighty bean – through innovation, advocacy and education.”

One of the questions raised several times during the grand opening was funding for the project. Robert Alpers, chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, spoke to that, explaining the Center for Soy Innovation was funded through a combination of savings, individual contributions and corporate partnerships.

The savings were accumulated over many years, and those partnerships included both cash and in-kind support. The individuals and companies who contributed to the project are recognized in the vestibule, including a special group of Friends of Education who specifically supported programming through the Foundation for Soy Innovation.

Visitors mingled with one another while exploring the Center and its educational exhibits. Simon the Soybean was even on hand for photos with soybean-loving guests.

“The Center was constructed without the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council or Missouri Soybean Association taking on debt,” Alpers said.

Both Alpers and Russell shared their excitement for the future in the Center for Soy Innovation, as the new facility, with its education center and conference space, expands Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council opportunities to host current and potential partners, along with youth groups.

To learn more about Missouri’s soybean organizations and the Center for Soy Innovation, and to schedule your tour of the new Center, visit mosoy.org.

Photos by Mill Creek Communications. Find the entire April issue of Missouri Soybean Farmer here.