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Environmentally friendly soy straws win ISA’s annual New Uses Competition
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (March 27, 2019) — A soybean-based drinking straw earned top honors at this year’s Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) and Purdue University. The contest encourages Purdue University students to develop novel applications for soybeans that meet a market need. This year’s winner, Team Stroy, took home the award for replacing a common restaurant item with a biodegradable, environmentally friendly straw. The contest ended March 27 on the Purdue University campus.
“A biodegradable drinking straw really combines a concern in today’s headlines with the potential of innovation,” said Nancy Cline, a farmer from Kirklin, Ind., and ISA 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. ISA very happy to work with Purdue students in the contest as we look to expand markets for soybeans grown in Indiana.”
Team Stroy includes: Natalie Stephenson, a senior from Fairland, Ind., in the Krannert School of Management studying marketing and data analytics; Morgan Malm, a graduate student from Fort Wayne, Ind., pursuing a Master’s degree in food science; and Ruth Zhong, a senior from Carmel, Ind., 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,” said Stephenson. “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 whole-heartedly believe that Stroy has a true potential to significantly positively impact the environment.”
Story is a soy-based drinking straw that is completely biodegradable and offers the material consistency of a plastic straw. This straw outperforms the primary commercialized alternative, paper straws, in quality, price and materials. Team Stroy says other products on the market can’t compete on price and are mostly for individual use and not commercialized consumption. 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, Ind., and Peyton Clark of Hillsdale, Ind., 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, Ind., for innovating a soy-based windshield wiper fluid.
The people’s choice award of $500 went to Team Luma for soy based glitter. Team Luma includes Ryann Davis of Muncie, Ind., Lauren Oparah of Schererville, Ind., Elizabeth Tedder of Hope, Ind., and Hillary Vrba of Libertyville, Illinois.
Sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance, the annual Student Soybean Innovation Competition introduces Purdue students to the multi-faceted 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 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 2018, 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 6.
For additional information about ISA’s investment in soybean innovation, go online to
The Indiana Soybean Alliance works to enhance the viability of Indiana soybean farmers through the effective and efficient investment of soybean checkoff funds and the development of sound policies that protect and promote the interest of Indiana soybean farmers. The ISA is working to build new markets for soybeans through the promotion of grain marketing, livestock, aquaculture, production research, biofuels, environmental programs, and new uses for soybeans. ISA is led by an elected farmer board that directs investments of the soybean checkoff funds on behalf of more than 28,000 Indiana soybean farmers and promotes policies on behalf of the nearly 600 dues paying members. Learn more at
This communication was funded with Indiana soybean checkoff dollars.