Checkoff News

Soy Market Challenge Opens the Door to Further U.S. Soy Demand in the EU

The United Soybean Board and U.S. Soybean Export Council launch first-ever hackathon in partnership with the University of Bergen in Norway.

ST. LOUIS (November 17, 2020) — The soy checkoff recently enlisted help from industry professionals and graduate students with engineering, finance and bioresource systems backgrounds for international perspective on how to increase the market share of U.S. soybeans in the European Union. “Hack to the Future: A Soy Market Challenge” was launched this fall by the United Soybean Board (USB) and U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) in partnership with the System Dynamics Society and the University of Bergen in Norway.

The challenge was a hackathon­­­, an event in which people from diverse backgrounds come together, often working on teams in an exploratory manner, to solve or “hack” difficult problems over a specified time frame. With the goal to present new ideas and strategic approaches for increasing U.S. soy market share in the EU, no one can better attest to the need for events such as these than Mac Marshall, Vice President of Market Intelligence for USB and USSEC.

“Farmers bear more risk in any one season than the rest of us do over the course of our entire lives,” said Marshall. “At USB, part of our purview is finding innovative solutions in both production research and market development that help mitigate that risk.

Participants formed into teams of three to five to develop and provide a System Dynamics analysis of intervention strategies that would have the largest positive impact on U.S. market share for soybeans and soy products in the EU, with particular attention on sustainability metrics that provide potential competitive advantage for U.S. soybeans. Team members were from diverse backgrounds including systems engineering, accounting and financing, and bioresource systems, among others, and they originated from different countries, time zones and cultures.

“That’s the power of interdisciplinary teams,” said Birgit Kopainsky, president of the System Dynamics Society and professor at the University of Bergen in Norway. “If you put people together from different backgrounds who have a keen interest in solving a challenge, you get to places you never could have imagined. At the end of the day, it was an immense challenge, but they were able to deliver.”

A jury panel of members from each organization selected winning teams which were awarded monetary prizes. Winners were selected following an evaluation process in light of a broad range of criteria, including model quality and insights for USB and USSEC. Topic ideas spanned new sustainability strategies, aquaculture investments, untapped market drivers and furthering the use of genetically modified products through biofuels and animal agriculture.

The System Dynamics Society, the University of Bergen in Norway, USB and USSEC are pleased to announce the winners of “Hack to the Future: A Soy Market Challenge.”

Best Overall Delivery (model, presentation, actionable insights):

  • Team 05: Srinivas Dharma, Saied Dardour, Cynthia Garde
  • Team 07: Nikhil Joshi, Adnan Bakather, Phyllis Kwenda
  • Team 01: Willard Noyes, Sanjeet Jaiswar, Ashish Shrestha

Best Model Award:

  • Team 03: Bent Erik Baaken, Mindy Block, Ricardo Salinas, Len Malczynski

“It’s great to hear that USB/USSEC appreciates what we all have done. I hope, in that way, they learn more about the power of systems thinking and system dynamics approaches, and they spread the word,” said Büşra Atamer, a participant of the Soy Market Challenge.

The event was the first-ever hackathon launched by USB and USSEC in partnership with the System Dynamics Society, and the second hackathon that the society itself has held. Tapping into diverse talent and laser-focused thinking, hackathons are more than just a challenge­­ — they are a call for connectionist thinking and provide space for building the cognitive architecture necessary for solving real world problems.

About United Soybean Board: United Soybean Board’s 78 volunteer farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is based on U.S. soybean meal and oil quality and the sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff. For more information on the United Soybean Board, visit

About U.S. Soybean Export Council: The U.S. Soybean Export Council is a dynamic partnership of U.S. soybean producers, processors, commodity shippers, merchandisers, allied agribusinesses and agricultural organizations working to build preference for U.S. soy throughout the world. Through a global network of international offices and strong support in the U.S., USSEC works to build a preference for U.S. soybeans and soybean products; advocates for the use of soy in feed, aquaculture and human consumption; promotes the benefits of soy use through education; and connects industry leaders through a robust membership program. USSEC is partially funded by the United Soybean Board. Learn more at

About the University of Bergen: University of Bergen (UiB) is an internationally recognized public research university in Bergen, Norway. UiB’s academic staff and students work together to research important topics spanning topics of climate and energy transition to challenges that we all face globally. UiB is dedicated to academic diversity, excellent research, education, cooperation, and dissemination of knowledge and innovation to society.


Emily Dustman at United Soybean Board, 636.530.1558.

Paul Murphy-Spooner at United Soybean Board, 515.975.6584.

Mace Thornton at United Soybean Board,

© 2020 United Soybean Board. All Rights Reserved. [61006-6]

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