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  • Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture
Ithaca-based Clean Label Solution won $250,000 in the 2023 Grow-NY competition, but this startup is poised to grow even larger.

Somewhere along the way from growing up in Iran, earning a doctorate degree in organic chemistry and moving to the United States to become a postdoctoral fellow in food chemistry at Cornell University, Mohammad Arshadi developed a unique passion: soybeans. 

In 2019, he started Clean Label Solution in Ithaca intending to develop a technology to improve the nutrition and reduce the greenhouse emissions in soy-based animal feed. 

With the help of industry partners the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech (CoE) introduced to Arshadi, what started as samples Arshadi made in his kitchen grew to 4,000 tons of feed produced in 2023, with a goal of producing more than 10,000 tons of feed in 2024. 

Soybean oil is toxic to microbes in the rumen of cattle and soybeans contain around 20% oil, meaning that feeds with too much conventional soy can be harmful to cattle. Arshadi’s proprietary fermentation process, however, not only doesn’t pose the same health risks as conventional soy, but helps improve the microbial population in the rumen. 

“We’ve changed the game,” Arshadi said. 

In the spring of 2021, Arshadi began working with CoE Business Development Specialist Derek Simmonds. Simmonds helped connect Arshadi to soybean growers and brokers in the Finger Lakes region, assisted him in applying for grants and state incentives, connected him to industrial development agencies in several counties, and facilitated validation testing through Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY program that Arshadi needed to prove the effectiveness of his product. 

Arshadi said that testing showed that Clean Label Solution’s feed resulted in a 20% reduction in CO2 emission, a 6% reduction in methane emissions from the cattle and improved protein and fat digestibility compared to conventional soy. The use of soy in animal feed can also replace palm oil, which is sometimes used as an energy supplement, but cannot be sourced locally and carries with it concerns over sustainability and environmental impact. 

With Simmonds’ assistance, Clean Label Solution set up a production line at Genoa Grain in Cayuga County. Arshadi is currently working to develop additional partnerships with soybean growers and dairy and cattle farmers interested in using his products. 

He is also developing feeds for poultry and aquaculture.

“I wouldn’t be at this point without him,” Arshadi said. 

Clean Label Solutions was one of 20 startup companies selected as finalists in the 2023 Grow-NY food business competition. Arshadi worked with the CoE to develop his pitch deck and perfect his presentation in advance of the competition summit. 

With the CoE’s help, Clean Label Solution won a $250,000 prize in the competition. With that prize, Arshadi plans to produce four full-time jobs and is currently negotiating with a large soy processor to supply the soybeans needed for Clean Label Solution to expand its reach into other states and eventually outside the United States. 

“This would have taken years longer if it wasn’t for Cornell,” Arshadi said. “The support from the CoE helped me expedite the process.”
 

Jacob Pucci is the marketing and communications coordinator for the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech. 

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