Documentary unearths the soybean’s hidden potential, future innovation

From the food that billions of people rely on to the thousands of biobased consumer innovations like fuel that’s helping decarbonize our planet, get a glimpse into the soybean’s instrumental role in American history and humanity’s future.

June 18, 2024

4 Min Read

A new documentary showcases the innovative power of soybeans and U.S. soybean farmers’ dedication to producing a crop that is revolutionizing various industries. GroundBreaking: A Story of Innovation premieres on A&E on Saturday, June 22 at 1 p.m. EDT. With an American origin story that dates back nearly 150 years, the soybean plant has evolved into a resource used by farmers, chemists, historians, chefs and astrobiologists. This story features experts diving into how soy unlocks sustainable, biobased alternatives, best-in-class performance, optimized nutrition for animals and humans alike and a viable future to empower space exploration.

“As a soybean farmer, our primary goal is to grow a crop that replenishes the soil and nourishes the world through food, feed and other renewable products,” said Jim Douglas, a soybean, corn and pig farmer from Indiana featured in the documentary. “The soybean’s increasing versatility, driven by our ability to innovate and collaborate with industry and academic partners, will allow me to pass this land down to my son and leave a legacy of sustainability driven by the next generation.”

GroundBreaking: A Story of Innovation, visits nine states and talks to 15 experts about the past, present and future soybeans can create. Those stops include:

  • Skidway Island, Georgia, where the very first soybeans in America were brought over from China and planted by Samuel Bowen in the 1880s.

  • The Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, where seeking a crop that could yield great industrial value to him, Henry Ford created a prototype soybean car in 1941 with all of the major exterior body panels made out of soy-based plastic.

  • Farms in Arkansas and Indiana, where seed innovation enhances sustainability, reduces environmental impact and improves plant health and animal diets.

  • A Mars simulation at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, where the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation explores soy as a crop that could potentially be used for future Mars missions by planting and researching soy in simulated Martian soil.

  • And additional visits to Kansas, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Michigan to explore how soy shows up at the KCBS World Invitational BBQ Contest, aquaculture farming at Auburn University, a Pittsburgh stains and coatings lab and the Detroit Grand Prix.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the support and checkoff-funded research investments from U.S. soybean farmers, which have been instrumental in developing our innovative in-pond raceway technology,” said Dr. Jesse Chappell, retired associate professor at the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences at Auburn University. “Featured in the documentary this technology allows us to produce more fish efficiently and affordably, utilizing the same water and energy but managed in a more sustainable way using U.S.-grown soybean meal.”

GroundBreaking: A Story of Innovation is a first-of-its-kind documentary exploring the future of agriculture and the wide scope of a single crop’s global potential, is funded by the half-million U.S. soybean farmers, like Jim, who invest in creating sustainable soy solutions for every life, every day. Soybeans are the United States’ number one agricultural export, producing one-third of global soy output, wielding incredible strength and stability for the U.S. economy – $124 billion to be exact.

One acre of soybeans, which equates to about 50 bushels or 3,000 pounds, is enough protein and oil to produce animal feed for 800 pounds of boneless chicken (which could feed 10 people for a year), 50 gallons of renewable diesel fuel (enough for a semitruck to travel from NYC to Pittsburgh) and two years of an average person’s vegetable oil consumption. Continued innovation is creating the potential for the soybean to serve as a catch-all fossil fuel replacement in the near future.

“This documentary shows audiences of all kinds how soybeans can solve the broad challenges of humanity helping raise awareness on a global stage,” said Lisa Humphreys, senior director of content management and brand stewardship at the United Soybean Board and executive producer of the film. “By bringing soy to the mainstream, we’re highlighting its importance and the groundbreaking work of our farmers which ultimately drives reputation and increases consumer preference for U.S. Soy.”

To learn more, visit ussoy.orgGroundBreaking: A Story of Innovation, produced by St. Louis-based Spot Content Studio and directed by Sam Pinkstone, will air on Saturday, June 22 at 1:00 p.m. EDT on A&E. Please check local listings. GroundBreaking: A Story of Innovation is also available to stream on the A&E App and

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