Global grain trader and agrifood company Bunge has invested A$45.7 million (US$34.8 million) in Australian Plant Proteins (APP).
APP is a premium plant-based powder processing, packaging and distribution business with facilities in regional Victoria. The company produces and supplies protein isolate powders, sourced from Australian pulses.
Bunge’s investment will enable APP to accelerate the expansion of its plant protein isolate fractionation facility. It hopes to double the output of its plant-protein isolates by March 2022.
Bunge will also be APP’s exclusive distributor in the Americas and provide valuable downstream application resources through its Creative Solutions Centre. The deal includes an option for Bunge to license APP’s proprietary processing technology outside Australia.
‘By combining APP’s proprietary extraction technology with our application expertise and global sales and distribution networks, we provide a significant competitive advantage in making quality plant protein accessible to customers around the world,’ says Kaleb Belzer, the vice president of Bunge’s protein business.
‘This partnership is a significant validation of our proprietary processing technology and scalability and marks a major milestone in our goal to ensure Australia plays a key role in the supply of quality plant protein isolates to global food, beverage and nutritional supplement manufacturers,’ says Brendan McKeegan, Co-founder and Director, Australian Plant Proteins.
Australian processing ingenuity
APP produces protein isolates using faba beans. It developed a proprietary fractionation process and worked with CSIRO to optimise processing parameters, achieving a faba bean powder protein content of greater than 80% – compared to 40-45% protein for traditional plant-based powders.
Keegan says APP has experienced ‘soaring demand’ in Australia and internationally since starting commercial production in November 2020, with customers impressed by the protein isolate’s high functionality and clean taste. The isolates can be used in yoghurts, milks, meat alternatives, protein bars and shakes, sauces, condiments, baked goods and protein supplements.
APP has also used the fractionation process to make protein isolates from yellow peas, mung beans, chickpeas, red lentils and yellow lentils, all of which are ready for commercial launch.
Investment opportunities in Australian alternative proteins
Australia’s alternative protein sector generated A$185 million in retail sales and A$50 million in manufacturing in 2019–20. By 2030, the sector is forecast to grow to A$4.6 billion in retail sales and A$2.9 billion in manufacturing.
Australia is seeking investment in R&D and infrastructure across the alternative proteins supply chain.
Pulse Protein CRC
The growing demand for meat alternatives has spawned plans for a new Pulse Protein Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) in Australia. The CRC will drive a national campaign of plant protein research and processing innovation, backed by universities, manufacturers, farmers and government.
The intent is also for the CRC to fund its own processing and research company, Advanced Protein Australia, which will build a pilot fractionation plant in partnership with a commercial investor.
The CRC bid, worth up to A$170 million, is focused on developing fresh crop varieties and protein processing opportunities to triple Australia’s pulse crop demand in 10 years to 30% of the nation’s crop rotation mix. The CRC plan has backing from universities and research bodies in all states.
Seaweed aquaculture research
CH4 Global is a US-based red seaweed aquaculture business aiming to commercialise CSIRO patented technology. Trials in Australia and the US have shown that introducing the seaweed bioactive compound ‘bromoform’ as a feed supplement can significantly reduce methane emissions in cattle.
The South Australian Government has supported the establishment of Australian operations through the South Australian Landing Pad. There is a ground-level opportunity to secure future product and/or invest in the business.
Capital has been raised for initial trials and a further US$10 million round has opened for expansion to the first 20-hectare pod.