Consumer demand for sustainable products continues to increase, and soy is ready to deliver. For artificial grass, soy plays a significant role in the product’s sustainable success. From putting greens to playgrounds and landscaping to lawns, soy-backed synthetic turf has become an attractive option for a number of diverse residential and commercial uses.
Universal Textile Technologies, with research investment from the soy checkoff, recognized soy’s potential to contribute to the sustainability of its products. UTT developed BioCel and EnviroCel synthetic grass backing using soy-based polyols to replace all of the performance attributes of petroleum-based polyurethane. Soy-based polyols add the advantages of price stability, lower carbon emissions and improved air quality.
Following successful product development to expand from replacing petroleum-based backing to latex backing, UTT provided its soy-based technology to SYNLawn. The largest artificial grass manufacturer in the U.S., SYNLawn operates in the commercial, residential and golf synthetic grass landscape markets, with products carried by retailers such as Lowes and Ace Hardware.
SYNLawn broke new ground in the industry, producing the first USDA-certified, bio-based artificial turf in the industry. Today, SYNLawn estimates their products have replaced up to 60% of the petroleum-based polyol with soy-based polyol. SYNLawn says their customers report a more than 50% reduction in water use and lower landfill impact with the longer projected life cycles. Additionally, SYNLawn’s artificial grass is 100% recyclable, and the company says it finds it has superior durability to petroleum-based products.
“SYNLawn turf has the natural qualities of real grass in appearance and feel. The product is as innovative as it is beautiful and functional,” says Kyle Bridgeforth, a partner with fifth-generation Bridgeforth Farms in Tanner, Alabama, which grows soybeans, wheat, cotton and other row crops. Through a United Soybean Board leadership program, Bridgeforth traveled to New York City to learn more about soy-based products.
“The SYNLawn turf we experienced at the Standard Hotel’s Le Bain rooftop was cool and soft to the touch. It collapsed under your feet like regular grass,” he adds, likening the SYNLawn artificial turf’s look to a real, well-manicured golf course.
A number of diverse industries and customer groups see all the benefits too. Several have stepped into SYNLawn’s artificial turf market, including federal agencies meeting looking to meet new water reduction requirements. Agencies must cut water use for industrial, landscaping and ag consumption by 2% annually through fiscal year 2025.
One highly visible SYNLawn customer is the historic Del Mar Race Track in southern California, operated by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. The second largest horse-racing venue in the western United States, the site also hosts more than a million visitors attending national touring concerts, weddings and the county fair. Property managers turned to SYNLawn to install more than 8,500 square feet of turf in its paddock area.
Similarly, in Indianapolis, the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience, a 7.5-acre exhibit at The Children’s Museum, added SYNLawn product to a nearly an acre and a half of its outdoor area. And to create a happier environment for dogs in need of forever homes, SYNLawn installed artificial pet grass at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County, Florida. The additional play yard transformed an unused field into a fenced area where small dogs play and exercise.
“The SYNLawn representative we met was very enthusiastic about their use of soy. She expressed SYNLawn’s appreciation for soybean farmer-funded research and the collaborative effort with USB in promoting the product,” says Bridgeforth. “This is a prime example of how progressive ideas and great partnerships increase profitability for soybean farmers,”.
Finding new industrial uses for soy has been a long-time priority for the soy checkoff. Industrial uses generate additional soybean demand and have contributed to significant growth in the U.S. soybean industry — from $11 billion to $41 billion in the last 25 years.
“I am constantly amazed at how flexible and adaptable soy is for industrial uses,” says Woody Green, USB director from Lynchburg, South Carolina. “I am a long-time supporter of making checkoff investments in industrial uses, and USB for the coming year has invested in several new promising and innovative uses.”
USB-funded research and product development encourages more manufacturers like SYNLawn to choose soy, giving U.S. soybean farmers more profit opportunities.
“USB’s focus on industrial uses is a very important, needed use of our checkoff dollars,” says Russell Wolf, soybean farmer from Tipton, Missouri. “With all of the trade issues we have today, we must continue to find sustainable new uses for our soy — here and abroad.”
Wolf also traveled with USB’s leadership program to the Northeast to experience soy-based industrial products at the end of the value chain, something farmers don’t always get to see.
“Industrial uses are one area we can grow, and USB knows the importance of using our checkoff dollars to do so,” says Wolf.
“It was eye-opening to see soy used in an urban setting. Such industrial uses help increase demand beyond animal feed and biodiesel,” says Bridgeforth. “The more companies and industries use soybeans, the more confidence and exposure we gain in consumer markets. Ultimately, new partners and collaborations will grow soy demand.”