• By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Benson Hill Builds Supply Chain Infrastructure For its Non-GMO, Identity-Preserved Soybeans

Crop biotech and food innovation company Benson Hill has announced a collaboration with Rose Acre Farms, the second largest egg producer in the U.S., that will build out the supply chain for Benson Hill’s high-protein, high-oleic, low anti-nutrient soybeans.

Innovation in soybean seed development over the past decades has focused more directly on improving yields, while protein content has decreased, according to David Iverson, United Soybean Board meal target area coordinator and South Dakota farmer.

However, Benson Hill’s seed-to-shelf innovation pipeline is being developed through its CropOS™ platform that uses proprietary phenotyping, predictive breeding, and environmental modeling algorithms to allow Benson Hill’s plant breeders to optimize the protein content in its soy varieties, and to accelerate the path to market.

In March of this year Benson Hill announced its plans to release new ultra-high protein soybean varieties for the 2021 season that will be the first commercially available soybeans to effectively replace soy protein concentrate via traditional soybean crushing.

The launch of the varieties, which offer better digestibility, heart-healthy omega fatty acids, and higher protein that serve the plant-based food, healthy oils, animal feed and aquaculture markets., were developed using traditional breeding methods, allowing non-GMO certification and unrestricted use in the U.S. and export markets such as the EU – will be conducted through the company’s Benson Hill Seeds division, launched in December 2019.

The company’s Seeds division portfolio includes cutting-edge seed varieties offering superior protein and oil profiles, greater feed digestibility ratios, low trypsin inhibitor levels, and other qualities sought after by high-volume end users. One such offering is the eMerge Genetics portfolio of products – an internationally known portfolio of non-GMO soybean varieties that are non-GMO verified for sale in all markets, including the EU.

Eight months after the announced launch, in November of this year, Benson Hill was in the news again, announcing that it had raised $150 million through a Series D co-led by Wheatsheaf and GV and including a diverse range of new and existing investors.

With this capital the company said it intended to continue to advance its Cloud Biology® and its innovation engine CropOS™ capabilities; power its partner development efforts; continue its recruitment plans; and drive the commercial launch of its ultra-high protein soybeans as well as other innovative products in 2021. And ‘powering its partner development efforts’ it is.

This collaboration with Rose Acre Farms will optimize Benson Hill’s soybean processing capacity in Seymour, Indiana, and will enable local growers to benefit from price premiums for food and feed-grade, identity-preserved, non-GMO soybeans while also supporting Benson Hill as it strives to meet the demand for high-protein animal feed and plant-based protein ingredients for food production.

"We are thrilled to partner with Benson Hill to expand our crushing capacity in Indiana," said Tony Wesner, COO, Rose Acre Farms. "We believe this strategic partnership will deliver tremendous value to local farmers and, by opening a new market pathway for in-demand soybean ingredients, support higher land and commodity prices over time.”

“Wesner continued, “As the second-largest egg producer in the United States, we also see that the market is moving towards higher-protein animal feed, a key attribute of Benson Hill's soybean portfolio."

Through its partnerships with growers Benson Hill has contracted more than 30,000 acres of premium soybeans to be grown this season - including significant acreage in Indiana.

With Rose Acre Farms as a partner, together the two companies will develop a processing facility in proximity to these Indiana growers, minimizing cost and the carbon footprint associated with transportation. Once established, this facility will also provide a foundation in support of Benson Hill’s plans to significantly increase its number of contracts in the area.

"Benson Hill's partnership with Rose Acre Farms further builds out our supply chain infrastructure and enables us to bring our identity-preserved soybeans to more commercial buyers," said Chris Wilkins, COO, Benson Hill. "Demand for high-quality, high-protein soybeans – particularly as ingredients to serve the booming plant-based foods market – continues to grow.”

Forecasts state that global protein consumption is expected to climb at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.7 percent, reaching 943 million tons by 2054, according to Lux Research. Of this, less than 1 percent is currently derived from non-animal sources, however, experts including the UN FAO, predict that demand for non-animal-based protein has the potential to account for between 10 and 20 percent of growing demand, which would translate to the need for as much as 200 million tons of plant protein per year.

This wave of preference for plant-based proteins by consumers, combined with a deepening knowledge about the food supply chain, has resulted in consumers not only wanting more plant-based proteins in their own diets, but looking for certain attributes in the diet of the chickens that lay their eggs, and the livestock that are raised for consumption. These shifts are opening a widow for disruption for businesses like Benson Hill Seeds that have the detailed technology to meet these demands.

“We expect the plant protein market to continue to increase at a double-digit percentage over the next several years,” said Wilkins, “...and with value chain partners like Rose Acre Farms and farmer partners across the Midwest, we are well-positioned to capitalize on that demand.”

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