Aug. 22, 2022
Source: Iowa Soybean Association
A company focused on leveraging its food technology to improve seed genetics recently celebrated its official ribbon cutting at its new Creston facility.
"We have come a long way to rethink how we can use innovation and technology to make not only better food starting from the beginning with a better seed, but also how, from a business perspective, we can invest in infrastructure and assets that allow us to deliver that," says Matt Crisp, CEO of Benson Hill.
Acquisition of the former ZFS Creston, LLC facility was completed in January of 2022. The facility is an established food-grade white flake and soy flour manufacturing operation.
The Creston facility is also geographically complementary to Benson Hill's other soy crushing facility in Seymour, Ind.
Acquiring Creston's soy white flake capacity allows Benson Hill to immediately begin offering ingredients for the broad human food market including plant-based meat, meat extension, bakery, cereal and snacks, Crisp says.
Further, Benson Hill's identity preservation program leverages established farmer relationships to provide traceable and more sustainable ingredients.
"Consumers are more digital, more informed, more interested in health and sustainability and modern food trends and where their food comes from," he says. "I am proud we can do it in a closed loop, identity preserved model here in Iowa, with farmers who can produce something in Creston and have that delivered to food companies directly."
Premium products, such as soy white flake will be produced out of the Creston facility. Soy white flake is a key ingredient for food grade applications in products for aquaculture markets in northern Europe and ingredients for companies like Kellogg's.
Recently, the company announced a partnership with the grocery store chain Schnucks rolling out high oleic oil, sourced from Benson Hill soybeans, in more than 100 locations for use in food service applications.
Crisp says sustainability has become commonplace in the market.
"The reason we focus on the power of the plant and the plant's true genetic potential, is so we can breed for things like protein content," he says. "We can increase that protein content so high in the bean that we can eliminate the need for a lot of secondary processing required to make some of the food ingredients commonly used for food companies. We see carbon emission reductions between 50-90% and water usage reduced 70% or more."
Reid Weiland, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer-member from Garner in Hancock County, is raising more than 3,000 acres of Benson Hill soybeans and is part of the company's Food System Innovators program.
"It is a circle of farmer partners we keep in close touch with, and they help us understand where the puck is going," says Crisp. "We engage in collaborative dialogue around how we can better serve our farmer partners."
Weiland is now in his second year of raising non-GMO food-grade soybeans for Benson Hill.
"Once we knew it was an area we wanted to be in, we saw Benson Hill as a reliable partner and fell into their innovation grower program; we saw we could work together," says Weiland.
Weiland says he was looking for ways to diversify his operation and found Benson Hill.
"We sought to add value to our operation," he says. "No one prefers our corn and soybeans over the neighbors. We want to be recognized for doing more. We sought out that sort of solution and found Benson Hill. We are now recognized for what we are doing. We are part of the food system."
These products, Crisp says, create value beyond the farmgate that can be shared back with farmer partners to the extent they are uniting two sides of the value chain.
"The commodity system has put the farmer in one silo and the consumer in the another," Crisp says. "We are unlocking the opportunity for tremendous value across the board by breaking down that barrier."
Ray Gaesser, ISA farmer-member from Corning, sees Benson Hill's presence in Creston and Iowa as an opportunity for agriculture and a positive food solution for consumers.
"It's about the opportunities they present not only to farmers in agriculture and jobs, but the positive message to consumers that we are supplying the products they need and want that is environmentally friendly, grown and produced sustainably and grown right here in Iowa," Gaesser says.
Crisp says they are bringing value back to the farm.
"I think Iowa is an epicenter for experienced, farmer partners and a base of soybean production where we can build trust. And, in a vicinity of a plant like this (Creston) we can go the full spectrum to deliver to our customers and our consumers higher value and opportunities," he says.