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Environmentally friendly soy straws win ISA’s annual New Uses Competition

WEST LAFAYATTE, Ind. – A soybean-based drinking straw earned top honors at this year’s Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition funded by the Indiana Soybean Checkoff.

The contest encourages Purdue University students to develop novel applications for soybeans that meet a market need. The 2018-19 competition winner, Team Stroy, took home the award for replacing a common restaurant item with a biodegradable, environmentally friendly straw.

“A biodegradable drinking straw really combines a concern in today’s headlines with the potential of innovation,” said Nancy Cline, a farmer from Kirklin, and Indiana Soybean Alliance grain marketing and utilization committee chair. “Team Stroy captured the essence of this contest. We want to show the versatility of soybeans while addressing a need in society. The Indiana Soybean Alliance is very happy to work with Purdue students in the contest as we look to expand markets for soybeans grown in Indiana.”

Team Stroy consists of Natalie Stephenson, a senior from Fairland, in the Krannert School of Management studying marketing and data analytics; Morgan Malm, a graduate student from Fort Wayne, pursuing a master’s degree in food science; and Ruth Zhong, a senior from Carmel, studying electrical engineering. The trio received a $20,000 prize for their first-place entry.

“I was challenged to come up with creative solutions to problems, and I was able to put what I’ve been learning in the classroom into practice in an applicable setting,” Stephenson said. “I also developed a passion for biodegradable material production. It’s so rewarding to put time and energy into a product worth fighting for, and I wholeheartedly believe that Stroy has a true potential to significantly positively impact the environment.”

The team’s invention, Stroy, a completely biodegradable soy-based drinking straw, offers the material consistency of a plastic straw. This straw outperforms the primary commercialized alternative, paper straws, in quality, price and materials. Team Stroy wants to enter three markets: fast-food chains, fast-casual dining and the coffee and snack shop industry. If accomplished, Stroy will increase demand for soybeans, generate jobs and improve the overall agricultural economy.

Thirty-seven Purdue students representing 12 teams participated in this year’s contest. Team Soy Seal, students Alyson Chaney of Clinton and Peyton Clark of Hillsdale, earned the second-place award of $10,000 for making a wood finish with soy nanocellulose. The third-place award of $1,500 went to Team Soyshield, students Jason Clark and Thomas Smith, both of West Lafayette, for innovating a soy-based windshield wiper fluid.

Funded by the soybean checkoff through the Indiana Soybean Alliance, the annual Student Soybean Innovation Competition introduces Purdue students to the multifaceted uses and vast potential of soybeans while drawing on students’ creativity to develop new products that utilize soy. Following the competition, ISA will work to develop the products, evaluate long-term feasibility and explore commercialization viability. Previous contest winners include SoyFoliate, soy-based exfoliating beads for personal products, and Soy Sniffs, a soy-based air freshener as well as the ever-popular soy crayons and soy candles.

Student teams began work on their projects in September, developing and testing their ideas along with completing market research reports for their products. The products were judged by soybean farmers, marketing specialists and scientists at Purdue University on March 4.

For additional information about ISA’s investment in soybean innovation, go online to http://www.indianasoybean.com/checkoff-investments/new-use-innovation.

The work of all contestants aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration, acknowledging the university’s global advancements made in sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. This is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

Media contact: Dave Blower, 317-644-0980; dblower@indianasoybean.com

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-8415;

Maureen Manier, Department Head, mmanier@purdue.edu

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