Biodegradable plastic mulch, biodegradable menstrual pads and a plant-based toaster waffle are the top innovations in this year’s University of Guelph Project SOY-plus competition.

The student competition, now in its 24th year, was expanded this year to include innovations using all plant and plant-based products.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, judges viewed online video pitches and digital poster boards of the projects.

“Students have demonstrated remarkable adaptability and commitment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research). “With University of Guelph campuses closed and physical distancing in full effect, students have had to adapt when it comes to managing extracurricular commitments like Project SOY-plus, and they’ve done so with tremendous resilience and dedication to research and innovation.”

Students compete in three categories. The first-place team in each category wins $2,500, second is awarded $1,500 and third receives $500. Development costs are covered for all teams up to $300, and each team receives a participation honorarium.

All participants in the diploma category were Ridgetown Campus students, with top finishers as follows:

  • Riley Sharp: B-GON Biodegradable Plastic Mulch made from corn and potato starch that biodegrades after eight weeks (faculty mentor, Prof. Chris Gillard, Department of Plant Agriculture)
  • Christel Andrade: Soybean’s Miracle Facemask, an economical and effective plant-based product (Prof. Milad Eskandari, Plant Agriculture)
  • Michael Cushing: Jug-o-Juglone herbicide using a phytotoxic chemical from black walnut (Prof. Mike Gladstone, Plant Agriculture)

In the undergraduate category, top award-winners were as follows:

  • Domenique Mastronardi: Happy Waffle, a plant-based toaster waffle created with juice pulp, potatoes and soybeans (Prof. Mario Martinez, School of Engineering)
  • Loretta Higgins, Anna Wetzl and Amanda Crerar: Burniderm, a plant-based hydrogel (Prof. William Bettger, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences)
  • Nicole Goetz and Sharan Dadhwal: ChocoBitez, a plant-based, creamy chocolate (Prof. Evan Fraser, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics)

Top awards for graduate students went to the following:

  • Anupjot Brar, Aryana Rabii, Benjamin McLeod, Gabriel Laplante, Harshina Brijlall, Jacob Insley, Ryan Cranwill, Schnell D’Souza, Sonja Andrekovic, Stephanie Lim and Trung Hoang: Embrace Biopad, a biodegradable menstrual pad made from soy-based textiles and super-absorbent polymers (Profs. Alison Duncan, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, and Elliot Currie, Department of Management)
  • Maisyn Picard, Kjeld Meereboer and Mateo Gonzalez de Gortari: Green Egg Paper, a sustainable stone paper product (Profs. Manjusri Misra, School of Engineering, and Amar Mohanty, Plant Agriculture)
  • Tara Allohverdi and Mal Hedrick: AgriLife Bio, a biochar soil amendment using agricultural wastes (Profs. Misra, Mohanty and Istvan Rajcan, Plant Agriculture)

This year’s judges were Nicole MacKellar, market development manager, Grain Farmers of Ontario; Tyler Zemlak, business incubation services manager, Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics; Shelley Morrison, project manager, Food from Thought; and Martin Ciuk, technology transfer manager, Research Innovation Office.

“The University of Guelph continues to be a leader in sustainable research, innovation and experiential learning,” said Morrison. “Programs like Project SOY-plus encourage students across a wide range of disciplines to explore sustainable and innovative solutions using agriculturally based resources.”

Project SOY-plus is supported by Food from Thought through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

Watch videos from the winners.