The United Soybean Board (USB) announced the award of $1.1 million to the Purdue University Food Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing Institute (FEMI), in partnership with the University of Arkansas and the University of Missouri, for a joint project that is working to build infrastructure and connectivity for small- and medium-scale processing of soy-based value-added products.
The project is co-funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a federal organization that supports research activities focused on addressing key agriculture problems including plant health and production, agricultural economics and rural communities, and agricultural and food security.
Dharmendra Mishra, associate professor and director of FEMI, will lead the project that was born out of a national discussion on the soybean value chain. Fellow Purdue team members for the grant are Senay Simsek, department head and professor of food science; Katy Rainey, associate professor of agronomy; and Karen Hudson, a USDA-ARS research and molecular biologist. Beginning Oct.1 with a planned one-year time frame, the project will focus on phenotyping for compositional traits in novel value-added applications, trials to eliminate pressure on small- to medium-scale industry sectors and final product quality and sensory evaluations.
“Soybeans currently produce the highest protein yields per unit area compared to all other plant-based sources,” Mishra said. “The major challenge is that quality issues with flavor and functionality have impacted the utilization of currently available soybean protein products for food.”
The global demand for soy protein isolate/concentrate is expected to increase 80 times, while the global meat substitute market is expected to be worth $140 billion by 2029, Mishra said. Increased soy production for renewable diesel production is expected to increase by 10% over the next three years.
“There was a critical need to help the soybean farmers and soy processors. Our project proposes to solve the bottleneck of small- and medium-scale processing and facilitate the scale-up of identity preserved (IP) systems through our multistate team,” Mishra said. “Our project fits in the overall strategic vision of the connectivity for soy users to the market.”
Simsek said this type of highly interdisciplinary work requires collaboration and coordinated efforts with researchers and scientists from different disciplines across institutions.
“Soy-based products have continued to grow over the past years and are expecting continued growth into the future,” Simsek said. “With this grant, Purdue Food Science will be a hub for research, development and education that will make connections and bridge the gaps between growers, breeders, researchers, students, the food industry and consumers.”
Purdue’s Skidmore Sales and Distributing Food Product Development Laboratory and Pilot Plant enable stakeholders to come together and develop new soy-based products using state-of-the-art manufacturing processes to further initiatives in plant-powered protein, refinement into oils, and powders and other value-added products, Mishra said. Purdue will also offer sensory testing and assessment of consumer acceptance of soy products through Food Sciences’ sensory lab.