In a quest to make lighter, more sustainable vehicles, the Ford Motor Company looked to farmers for help.
Farm to fork, a phrase gaining popularity in the United States means to get natural fresh food to the table with very little middle man.
Ford applied that same thinking to its vehicles.
“Any interior applications of our vehicles that we can, (we’re) trying to make them more green,” Mica de Bolt, a research engineer with the Ford Motor Company said.
Henry Ford made a car out of soybeans in the 1930s, according to de Bolt. More than 80 years later, researchers were looking for ways to use soybeans to benefit the environment.
Ford started a sustainable research group in 2000, which spent eight years perfecting soybean foam for seats.
“There’s 31,521 soybeans in a seat cushion,” de Bolt explained.
Tree fiber known as cellulose is used in arm rests, and wheat straw is used to create storage bins.
From Fusions to F-150s, de Bolt said Ford vehicles use coconut, tomato, wheat, rice, soybeans, and even agave.
The researchers at Ford don’t use the actual food itself, but what is known as agricultural bi-products.
“Wheat straw is a bi-product of wheat production, rice hulls are a bi-product of rice production, the agave fibers come after the fibers have been pressed and squeezed to get that agave out them,” de Bolt explained.
While making sustainable vehicles is one plus of using agricultural bi-products, utilizing agri-waste cuts down on landfill use as well.
And soybean oil, in lieu of petroleum, is extremely planet friendly.
Petroleum, being a fossil fuel, is a precious and finite resource, compared to the quick and natural cycle of produce.
“Vegetables and soybeans, tomatoes, they all grow in a few months,” de Bolt said. “We’re even looking at algae, which replicates four times in a 24-hour period.”
While many car companies now use soybean foam in their seats, Ford remains the front runner in using farm waste.