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Benson Hill to offer ultra-high protein soybeans to farmer and end users

Ready for 2021 growing season, soybeans will supply alternative meat and dairy industries.

A St. Louis company plans to launch the industry’s first Ultra-High Protein soybean varieties in time for the 2021 growing season and is seeking farmers in select states to grow them. This identity-preserved lineup of soybeans will be available for farmers in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa to grow on contract for specialty markets, says Matt Crisp, CEO of Benson Hill.

Benson Hill is a crop improvement company that aims to “leverage the natural diversity of plants,” Crisp told Successful Farming magazine in a phone interview. These varieties are the first commercially available soybeans that can effectively replace soy protein concentrate via typical soybean crushing. This innovation enables food companies to eliminate costly energy and water-intensive processing steps across the consumer food, animal feed, and aquaculture markets.

READ MORE: 5 steps to better soybean profits

The company uses traditional breeding methods to supply high-protein, high-value soybeans allowing for non-GMO certification and unrestricted use in U.S. and export markets, including Europe. Benson Hill will release the varieties through its Benson Hill Seeds division. 

“There is a clear need for this product, as the alternative meat and dairy movements are taking off,” says Crisp, who adds that the British investment bank Barclays estimates the alternative meat industry on its own is projected to be a $140 billion market. Meanwhile, UBS, an investment firm, anticipates the plant-based meat market will reach $85 billion by 2030.

Opportunity for farmers

Crisp says Benson Hill is seeking farmers to grow these soybeans. In 2021, the company expects to have enough seed for 20,000 acres; by 2022 there should be enough supply for 200,000 acres. Growers will participate in a closed-loop, identity-preserved system. 

“This evolving consumer demand for healthier, tastier, and more sustainable food provides an opportunity for growers, as well,” Crisp says. “Growers who work with us will enjoy a more profitable crop scenario as a result of these emerging demands.”

Benson Hill is seeking farmers who can commit at least 500 acres or more to Ultra-High Protein soybean production. Premiums paid to farmers who grow soybeans for the company are not yet known, Crisp adds.

READ MORE: Brazil and Argentina grow half of the world's soybeans

Benson Hill's seed-to-shelf innovation pipeline leverages plant genomics to drive ingredient innovation through its CropOS (TM) platform. CropOS accelerates the path to market by employing proprietary phenotyping, predictive breeding and environmental modeling algorithms, allowing Benson Hill plant breeders to optimize not only the protein content of its soy varieties but also the optimal environments for these varieties to be planted.

“While soybean yields have improved over the past decades, protein levels have fallen,” said David Iverson, United Soybean Board meal target area coordinator and South Dakota farmer. “These Ultra-High Protein varieties demonstrate how we can work together via soy checkoff investments to improve protein content for end users. We continue to work with public and private partners, including Benson Hill, to serve as a catalyst to enable new technology, farmer choice, and innovation across our soybean industry.”

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