Nathan Eckel. Photo by the Ohio Soybean Council.

The Big Apple Tour

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean check-off.

The Clean Fuels Alliance, (previously known as the National Biodiesel Board) recently hosted a group of farmers on “The Big Apple Tour” to New York City.  While there, the participants learned about how biodiesel and renewable fuels, as well as other soybean-based products, are being used in that region.

Nathan Eckel is a soybean farmer from Wood County and member of the Ohio Soybean Council and serves on the Council’s Soy Demand Committee. Eckel was a participant on The Big Apple Tour and was able to gain valuable insights from the soy-based product users they visited, as well as what other needs are where soy could possibly be a solution.

One stop on The Big Apple Tour was with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).

“We were able to tour the New York City Fire Department training facilities and visit with the firefighters about the biodiesel that they use in their fire engines and ladder trucks,” Eckel said. “There is a big push in New York due to the density of the population to have clean fuel to reduce the air pollution in that area. The members of both the police department and fire department would like to use biofuels to reduce the pollution from their vehicles.”

Another stop on The Big Apple Tour was to Elizabeth, New Jersey.

“Elizabeth, New Jersey is an area that is 10 square miles. It has 11 school districts in that 10 square mile area. It is very densely populated,” Eckel said. “Elizabeth, New Jersey is also directly in the flight path of JFK Airport and they get all the emissions from the jet fuel of the planes taking off and landing every day. It is one of the worst places in America for air pollution. There are folks in that area interested in doing a green initiative. There is very little green space in that area. They are interested in talking to and partnering with anyone that is a biofuels provider. It is a very unique opportunity. They are very interested in sustainable aviation fuel. The new sustainable aviation fuel seems to be of interest in a lot of urban areas that deal with “jet wash” and that form of air pollution.”

Another way the Ohio Soybean Council is working to create new uses for soybeans and increase soy demand is through Airable Labs.

“A great thing about Airable Labs is that we have streamlined the research and accelerated the proof-of-concept process for projects that in the past may have taken over a year with outside contracts,” Eckel said. “By conducting the projects in-house, we can have earlier indications if a project will work or not, or if it needs to be adjusted or reformulated. That can be done and move the project ahead faster, or if something is not going to work, the project can be terminated sooner and money saved.”

RoofMaxx is one of the products developed and now registered from Airable Labs. RoofMaxx is a soy-based product that rejuvenates and extends the life of asphalt roofing shingles.

“RoofMaxx was actually old soy-based technology that was sitting on the shelf and was able to be reformulated and adapted by Airable Labs to be used in the industry as a bio-based environmentally friendly asphalt shingle rejuvenation product,” Eckel said. “It puts the flexibility back into older shingles and extends their functional life.”

The success of research conducted by Airable Labs has caught the attention of other mid-western state soybean councils, and now funding dollars are coming in from multiple states to conduct soy product research at Airable Labs, which is located at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio.

“There has been a big push for comradery among the soybean states, and we have really been working together in projects, such as NCSRP (North Central Soybean Research Program), to leverage funds. Airable Labs is another opportunity to work together and make our check-off dollars go further,” Eckel said.  

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