One thing Proctor and colleagues had to address was that using iodine to make the oil was unlike anything being done in commercial processing. “So, we decided to change that to more closely approximate what was being done commercially.

“To accomplish that we simulated a deodorization system. It has since become evident that we should use equipment currently dedicated to hydrogenation. We’ll just adapt it to our purposes.”

Does the CLA-rich oil cook/fry things up like oils everyone is used to?

“Oh, yes,” says Proctor. “We’ve published work on how it can be used to make potato chips. We’ve already made margarine from it and are currently looking at making shortening. That study will be completed this summer.”

The new oil can be used like any other soy-based product. “It’s just a thicker, more viscous oil. To date, it seems like it acts like hydrogenated oil much more than oils that haven’t been through this process.”

What size might the market for CLA-rich oil be?

“I’m not an economist but I know that partially hydrogenated fat is a massive market. The potential for this oil is huge. Soy oil is the second-most used oil in the world next to palm oil.”

Asked about his next steps, Proctor says that very broadly, “We understand the science and can make the product in the laboratory. What we must now do is address the issues of scale-up and commercial production.

“That’s where Riceland Foods come in. They’ve certainly got plenty of experience in that. Working with their experts should get us to where we want to be fairly quickly.

“We’re working with typical soybean oil from regular varieties. This is nothing to do with the high oleic or high linoleic side of things.”

Proctor says the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board deserves special praise. “They deserve to be highlighted for loyalty, having vision and the willingness to fund the lion’s share of our research. They understood what we were trying to do from the beginning and jumped in six or seven years ago and have continuously funded us.

“In fact, I just received word that the board would continue its funding of this collaborative work with Riceland. We’ve also happily gotten grants from the USDA and the Arkansas Bioscience Institute.”