After spending 32 years in the seed business, passion for soybeans drove John Schillinger to follow his dreams in a new direction. Schillinger, who is a graduate of the University of Maryland and holds a doctorate in plant genetics from Michigan State University, retired as president of Asgrow Seed in 1999 to form Schillinger Seed, Inc. and became its president.

"I was with Asgrow Seed when the first crosses were made for what became Roundup Ready soybeans," Schillinger said. "But in 1999 I decided I wanted to try something else in my life. I wanted to take the knowledge that I have and do something really good with it. So, when I heard the Food and Drug Administration say only 16 grams of soy protein a day could reduce a person's risk for a heart attack, and after having had two angioplasties myself, I knew I wanted to develop soybeans for the food industry with improved characteristics."

Schillinger assembled a group of breeders throughout the United States to help him begin developing soybeans that were richer in proteins, tasted better and improved soy meal texture.

The company hit the jackpot with its 240 variety.

Schillinger said this has been their number one selling variety for production in the U.S. because the end product is a big success in Japan. This variety has a heart protein, the negative taste removed, a good texture and is popular for soy milk in the United States.

But developing soybeans for the consumer marketplace was not enough for Schillinger. He wanted to try something that had never been done. In December 2008, Schillinger Seed launched its eMerge brand of soybeans, which are non-GMO.

This brand is exclusively non-GMO because Schillinger said there is growing demand from food companies who are looking for these types of products to make into food-grade products including ingredients for both snacks and finished products. He sees a big niche for non-GMO seed.

"As chemical weed control costs rise higher and higher, it's important to have options other than planting seeds that require specific herbicide use. Providing non-GMO seed allows us to offer alternatives to farmers who are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of weed control programs for resistant weeds," he said.

Just because Schillinger Seed offers non-GMO seed that doesn't mean the seed yields less than its biotech counterparts. Schillinger said its breeders have created comparable- to higher-yielding varieties with growers being able to earn $1 to $2.75 more for their grain.

"Overall with the eMerge brand of soybeans, we can offer farmers a $50 per acre advantage," he said.

In addition to the new brand, Schillinger Seed also launched its eMerge Marketplace, which is an online marketplace designed to help connect non-GMO soybean growers, buyers and end users. It is the first of its kind in the industry.

"There are a lot of grain buyers and end users who are looking for non-GMO soybeans with specific traits," Schillinger said. "We feel it's part of our job to close the whole seed-to-food loop so that the end users can find or attract the growers and acres they need, growers can find premium opportunities and distribution locations, and grain buyers can connect with both sides. Of course, our role is also to help all sides understand which varieties best meet the needs of the end users."

Schillinger said the eMerge Marketplace was a marketing concept that's been in development for nine years.

Schillinger Seed employs 16 with plans to grow that to 21 by mid-summer. Although based in Des Moines, Iowa, it has locations in Grinnell, Iowa; Queenstown, Md.; and Vandalia, Ill.

"Our goal is to help companies invested in soybeans to build relationships that are win-win," Schillinger said.