Soy farmers want facility

Monday, July 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:09 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

About 100 Missouri farmers have invested in a cooperative to build a facility that will manufacture high-protein, low-carbohydrate soy ingredients.

Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of low-carb foods, the group’s aim is to raise $3 million for the cooperative, which is named 1Soy Inc. The proposed facility would also manufacture finished soy products like energy bars and snacks.

The soy food industry has exploded in the last five to seven years. High in protein, soy has become a substitute ingredient in foods that are included in many high protein, low carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins Diet.

Soy is the fastest growing segment of the food industry, said Alex Stemme, director of identity-preserved products for the Missouri Soybean Association. Stemme estimates the sale of soy products will reach $4 billion this year.

“Low carb is more than just a trendy trend,” Stemme said.

Farmers who join the cooperative must invest a minimum of $15,000 and agree to deliver a certain amount of production, based on an acre model. The entry-level contribution of 50 acres would allow small farmers to participate in the cooperative.

1Soy board member Kelly Forck, who farms in the Jefferson City area, joined the cooperative to capture some of the profit from the market in finished food products, rather than just relying on the sale of bulk soy. Among the advantages to forming 1Soy, Forck said, is the opportunity to diversify income by increasing demand for soy products.

“Anytime you can get the demand to increase, whether it be small or large, when you add all the demands together it increases consumption,” Forck said.

Cooperatives increase the portion of the dollar that goes back to farmers, said Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, MU professor of agriculture business.

Stemme said that once the cooperative has raised $3 million, production could begin in as little as three months at existing manufacturing facilities. 1Soy could have its own facility up and running in less than a year. The plant would make high protein ingredients for other companies, primarily for energy bar and soy snack companies. Eventually, 1Soy would sell its own finished soy products.

Within five years, Stemme said, 1Soy hopes to earn $30 million and employ more than 30 people.

“This is a unique opportunity to get involved in the food industry and jump on the low-carb craze,” Stemme said.

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