House made of Soya -even the paint! at the Royal Winter Fair

photos by Fiona Persaud

by Fiona Persaud

"You can even eat the dishes"

November 18th, 2009
by Fiona Persaud
A beautifully decorated soy house promoted environmentally friendly innovations on Thursday at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. The annual event exhibited many developments by farmers including this year’s first-ever Soy House exhibit.

Visitors were able to tour the 108 sq. metre house decorated with over 100 soy-based products. Everything from the paint on the wall to the varnish on the dining table was made of soy ingredients in this modern home.

“The mattresses, foam, cushions, adhesives, varnish, bathroom fixtures and insulations all have soy in them,” said Lauren Budnick, a representative of Soy 20/20 an organization that collaborates with governments, researchers and industries to promote opportunities for Canadian Soybeans.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario, partnered with Quality Homes and Habitat for Humanity, Halton, created this home to showcase the health, environmental and economic benefits of Ontario soybeans. Organizers say the goal of the exhibit was to not only raise awareness of the various commercial and industrial uses of soy but to demonstrate the importance of Ontario’s soybean crop.

“It’s good for people who have allergies or people who want a more green living,” Budnick said.

The model home displayed furnishings made by companies already using soy in their products. Officials said the design demonstrated not only the impact of using natural ingredients but the benefits to the local economy.

“We help the farmer and relieve our dependency on oil,” Murray Booth said. Booth is a business development manager of Soy 20/20.

Soybeans contain polyol, a renewable alternative to petroleum oil in a wide variety of products. The Ontario BioAuto Council says that substances such as oil, protein and fibre are also found in soybeans and can be incorporated into various elements for commercial use.

The Ontario BioAuto Council predicts that soy car seats will be a $50 billion market by 2015. Ford has already begun to focus on this area with many of its vehicles using the soy-based materials in cushions and seatbacks. Ford first introduced soy foam seats in the 2008 Ford Mustang. By the end of 2009 Ford estimates that more one million of its vehicles will have soy foam seats.

“When you look at the new Mustangs, it’s used in the bumpers, in the headrest, the head lighter and it’s used in the foam,” said Kim Schwering, an executive assistant at Ontario Soybean Growers.

Although, according to Booth, the benefits of using soy-based materials are endless, Canada appears to be lagging behind other countries. Booth said that with an increase in soy production, Canada could generate more jobs for farmers, reduce outsourcing and create a greener environment.

“In Ontario we have 1.2 million hectares of soy. In the U.S. you have 11.2 million hectares of soy,” Murray said. “Hopefully within the next three years we’ll have a new soy crushing facility built in Sarnia. There will be more publicity if the plant is built.”

“If we do get to build another soy crushing plant here, that would build jobs and cut down the cost of products,” Budnick said.

Although many of the products displayed in the home are not yet produced in Canada, they are available on the market but since demand is not high for these products, they are costly for most consumers. According to Booth the major reason for this is the lack of Canadian processing facilities. Industries are often reluctant to make changes that may result in higher prices, particularly in a recession. The soy growers acknowledge that producing soy-based products requires drastic change in production, but like Schwering, soy growers remain optimistic.

“It’s almost like reinventing the wheel,” Schwering said.