As new uses—or utilization research—has become more of a priority over the years, the farmer-leaders who invest Kentucky's share of the soybean checkoff have sought ways to invest in research that seeks to incorporate soy/soy components into existing or new products that will actually reach the marketplace.
These farmers are excited about Kentucky's Soy Innovation Challenge, which engages students in the activity of coming up with ways to include soy in new or innovative ways, and we plan for that program to continue. But pushing the envelope on soy inclusion and not only figuring out how to incorporate soy components into industrial applications, plus having the contacts and understanding the processes to actually bring those products to the marketplace isn't in our wheelhouse. Filing patents and licensing new products is a very specialized skill set, and certainly justifies full-time jobs for a team of innovators.
Combine those big expectations with Kentucky's modest budget and small staff, and most folks would feel defeated. But, thanks to Executive Director Debbie Ellis (who is constantly seeking avenues by which Kentucky farmers can leverage their soy checkoff dollars for maximum return on investment), and our United Soybean Board Directors, the Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board knows about Airable Research Lab.
Arable research lab is the research and development arm of the Ohio Soybean Council. Under the direction of Barry McGraw, the lab work for companies to not only create new soy-based products, but also to improve existing products by using soy. The Lab leverages decades of experience and knowledge in the soybean industry to create innovative and sustainable solutions to research and product development through bio-based chemistry.
The council helped to develop RoofMax through the Airable lab, and the DEWALT Bar and Chain Oil that you saw in the Summer 2022 Sentinel is a result of Airable's partnership with Black & Decker to create the first bar and chain oil in North America that the USDA certified and biodegradable. The lab, as mentioned previously, is under the direction of Barry McGraw, who is listed as Founder and CLO. Prior to the launch of Airable in 2019, McGraw was the Director of Product Development and Commercialization for the Ohio Soybean Council for more than nine years, and before that he spent nearly 15 years working at Battelle, a well-know think tank that provides comprehensive scientific solutions to companies and government agencies.
With the decision to invest in Airable Labs, Kentucky joins not only the Ohio Soybean Council, but also the Iowa Soybean Association, Illinois Soybean Association, Missouri Soybeans, and the Michigan Soybean Committee in partnering to invest checkoff dollars into real-world applications that a re commercializable.
Kentucky Soybean Board farmer-leader Barry Alexander, who farms in Cadiz and also serves on the United Soybean Board, said, "That new uses and utilization category is where I think we need to be investing more checkoff dollars, so I was glad to see this opportunity come along. Production research is fine, and needed, but most of the farmers I know are already pretty good at growing soybeans. Finding more uses for soybeans and their components is one of my top priorities as a decision-maker for Kentucky's checkoff funds."
"We need to do all that we can to expand the market for our crop, and the people here at Airable Labs know how to do that. Our farmers and staff members don't have the skillset not the time to develop new uses and then work on the patenting and licensing—that's what Airable does, and I think finding a established lab that is already soy-focused is the best thing we could do to get maximum return on our checkoff investment," he continued. "I am excited to see that they come up with next. RoofMax, Okabashi flip-flops, and the new DEWALT Bar and Chain Oil are already success stories, and there's no reason to think that more new and exciting uses for soybean components aren't on the horizon."