Soy powers new eco-friendly battery

Scientists at the Kansas Polymer Research Center have invented a new kind of battery that is more eco-friendly.

While that’s good news, equally good news is that they invent­ed it by transforming a product that is plentiful in the heartland: soy. Or rather, crop residue after soybeans have been harvested.

“We’re using the stems, leaves, shells—things that would otherwise have no commercial value—to produce activated carbon material, and suddenly that has tremendous value,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Ram Gupta, the chief researcher for the project.

Soybeans are the No. 1 crop in Missouri, and one of the top 10 crops in Kansas. A grant from the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council using soy checkoff dollars funded Gupta’s research in the KPRC labs, located on the campus of Pittsburg State University.

Demand for batteries is growing rapidly, about 10% to 12% annually in what has become a $100 billion industry globally. The invention is aimed at replacing the more costly conventional activated carbon-based batteries made from fossil fuels. A patent is pending, and once it’s finalized, the new technology will be available for licensing to commercial buyers.

“This is important to farmers, to jobs, to green energy,” Gupta said. “It adds value to soybeans and creates a new market.”

In future projects, the research team plans to produce a dual carbon battery, with both electrodes made of biomass.

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Today's Farmer alum in hall of fame

Retired Today’s Farmer executive editor and MFA Director of Communications Chuck Lay was recently honored as a 2020 inductee to the Missouri Cooperative Hall of Fame. The award is traditionally presented during the Missouri Insti­tute of Cooperative’s annual meeting, which was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

During his 28-year tenure at MFA, Lay was responsible for the strategic planning and execution of MFA’s editorial and advertising direction. As editor of Today’s Farmer, he won nu­merous writing awards and became a leader in the Cooperative Communicators Association, a national organization.

Lay played a significant role in the Missouri Institute of Cooperatives over the years. He served on the Hall of Fame and Publicity committees and was the organization’s long-time secretary.

One of Lay’s great motivations was to archive and celebrate MFA’s long history. In 2012, when the cooperative began plan­ning in earnest for its 100th anniversary, MFA commissioned a history book. Lay got the job of researching and writing. The result was Proud Past, Bright Future, which was released to coincide with the anniversary. While other books had been written about MFA, the company’s history hadn’t been officially compiled since 1979.

Lay spent many hours at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection of the Missouri State Historical Society in Columbia, Mo.—the location housing the collected papers of MFA founder William Hirth and long-time president, Fred Heinkel.

Aside from the library work, Lay did extensive interviews with many MFA employees and retirees, including Ray Young, Eric Thompson, Bud Frew and Don Copenhaver—past MFA leaders with an in-depth knowledge of the cooperative’s inner workings and personalities.

Lay took pride in communicating for cooperatives. His work documenting MFA’s history mirrored his approach to writing for any publication—he wanted to get it down on paper, and he wanted to get it right. We congratulate him on joining the Missouri Cooperative Hall of Fame.

Copies of Proud Past, Bright Future are available for pur­chase at

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State Fair back on track for Aug 12-22

A traditional Missouri State Fair is expected to return Aug. 12-22 in Sedalia, with a complete lineup of livestock shows, exhibits, concerts, rodeo and bull riding, vendors, carnival midway and more.

“We are looking forward with confidence and hope that the fair you have come to know and love will take place this August,” said Fair Director Mark Wolfe. “We are plan­ning an event steeped in tradition, along with new and exciting things to experience.”

With the theme, “Our Missouri Celebra­tion,” the 2021 fair will commemorate the state’s 200th birthday in partnership with the Missouri Bicentennial Association. Special anni­versary exhibits, activities, entertainment and more will be featured across the grounds throughout the 11 days of the fair.

Wolfe said he and other State Fair planners will continue to work with health officials to mon­itor the COVID-19 status and make modifi­cations as necessary for the August events.

“The safety of our guests and staff is of utmost importance to us,” Wolfe said. “As we move forward with planning for the fair, we will be reviewing our cleaning protocols, along with the addition of more hand sanitizing and washing stations across the fairgrounds.”

Visit the fair’s website at for the most up-to-date information and schedule.

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