Farm Progress Show in Boone shows how soybean oil is used in asphalt


One of the groundbreaking technologies on display at the opening of the Farm Progress Show in Boone next week will be under visitors’ feet.

Beneath the one-acre Varied Industries tent is asphalt, but that bitumen is made from recycled materials bonded to soybean oil, a new product made by researchers at Iowa State University. It’s one of many new farming technologies that will be showcased at the Farm Progress Show, August 30-September 1.

Others include spray drones and other autonomous equipment, as well as large tires that allow a tractor to float in water.

Eric Cochran, professor of chemical and biological engineering at ISU, said mixing soybeans and asphalt is much cheaper and more environmentally friendly than laying traditional asphalt.

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Cochran, who has studied using soybean oil instead of petroleum since 2010, said an acre of traditional asphalt could cost between $500,000 and $1 million, depending on its thickness and quality. Using recycled asphalt would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 for the same acre, he said.

There are hundreds of millions of tons of recycled asphalt in the United States and the product may be easier to install than traditional materials, he said.

Each acre paved with recycled asphalt uses the equivalent of 1,000 fewer barrels of oil.

Nacu Hernandez, CEO of SoyLei Innovations, which markets the product, said other demonstration projects were underway in the United States, although they hoped to sell the product worldwide. Cochran said the mixture of recycled asphalt and soybean oil does not meet interstate highway standards, but would be fine for most other road surfaces, such as residential roads.

Workers prepare tents and farm equipment for display at the upcoming Farm Progress Show on Wednesday August 24, 2022 in Boone, Iowa.

Hernandez said other oils could be used to bind the asphalt. But Cochran said canola oil, for example, is primarily for the food market and is prohibitively expensive.

He has also studied the use of cover crops to make oil for asphalt mix, which could make them more useful to grow, entice farmers to plant them and, in doing so, help prevent the erosion and improve soil health.

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More information on the Farm Progress Show

The Farm Progress Show runs August 30 through September 1 at the Central Iowa Expo, 1827 217th St., Boone.

With over 600 exhibits, it attracts agricultural businesses, political leaders and financial analysts from around the world.

Tickets are $20 for adults at the door or $15 in advance. Tickets can be purchased online at

Student tickets for ages 13-17 are $10 at the door and children 12 and under are free.

General admission tickets for August 31 include admission to a concert by country star Lee Brice, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Ticket questions can be answered by calling 800-441-1410.

More information on directions to the show, a map of exhibits, travel and the daily schedule can be found at

A map is also accessible by scanning the QR code below.

This QR code will display a map of the Farm Progress Show 2022 outside of Boone, Iowa.

Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be contacted by email at [email protected] He’s on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.

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