New soy checkoff project has fire smothered

U.S. soybean farmers are putting out fires and blazing trails…literally.

As firefighting foam with PFAS, also known as forever chemicals, becomes more regulated, the soybean checkoff has invested its resources into finding a cleaner, environmentally friendly alternative.

Introducing SoyFoam TF 1122™.

Developed by the Georgia-based company Cross Plains Solutions, SoyFoam TF 1122™ is a smothering agent, made from soy flour, capable of extinguishing Class A and Class B fires while eliminating intentionally added PFAS chemicals. There are also no detectable fluorines (less than 1 parts per million) in the concentrate.

“This product is a first-of-its-kind and there’s a real need for it here in Minnesota,” said Mike Youngerberg, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) senior director of product development and commercialization.

In May 2023, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed into law banning the sale of certain products containing “intentionally added” PFAS. Minnesota was the second state to broadly ban the forever chemicals, with only several exemptions to date.

“As of January 1, 2024, we were prohibited from using foam with PFAS for testing, training and response, with very few exceptions,” said Matthew Grave, Willmar deputy fire chief. “We have very limited options, so hearing about this new biobased product is encouraging.”

Graves and Youngerberg joined a group of U.S. soybean farmers, firefighters and industry leaders in Dalton, Georgia, March 18-20 to see the foam firsthand at a local demonstration.

During the demonstration, the group was able to view SoyFoam TF 1122™ used in various scenarios, including ordinary combustibles and diesel fuel. The firefighters also tested two concentrate formulations, including one and three percent.

MSR&PC’s Mike Youngerberg (middle) and Willmar Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Grave (left) learn more about SoyFoam TF 1122™ during a demonstration in Georgia in March 2024.

“This product is unique because it covers both Class A and Class B fires,” Grave said. “Typically, we’d have to carry both.”

The United Soybean Board began investing checkoff dollars into this concept October of 2022. A year later, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Defense began testing the product.

“It’s taken 18 months to get from conception to almost commercialization,” said Alan Snipes, managing partner with Cross Plains Solutions.

SoyFoam TF 1122™ is the first and only firefighting foam to attain the gold level through GreenScreen Certified for Safer Chemicals, a globally recognized chemical hazard assessment method.

Along with containing no intentionally added PFAS chemicals or detectable fluorines, the foam concentrate is certified 100-percent biodegradable, 84-percent biobased and made using U.S.-grown soy.

“The environmental advantages have proven themselves,” Snipes said.

Youngerberg, who has seen numerous soy-based products move from the research stage to commercialization during his nearly 40 years with MSR&PC, says this project is one more example of how the checkoff can bring value not only our farmers but our first responders.

“Our firefighters risk so much for our communities,” he said. “The soy checkoff is doing its part to find ways to reduce the use and exposure to harmful chemicals, all while creating a demand for our beans. That’s a great story to tell.”

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