THE UNIVERSITY of Sydney has won funding to look at means of creating larger scale opportunities for plant based proteins based on Australian pulses.
The $990,000 grant, from the federal government's Global Innovative Linkages Program will look at the best ways to convert pulse crops into plant protein powder and ingredients over the next three years.
Plant protein is big business globally but while there is a small industry here in Australia most pulses are still sent off for export or used in the stockfeed industry.
Adding another layer of complexity to those looking to set up in the space in Australia is the lack of processing research being done with Australia's main pulses crops.
Globally the most popular legumes for use in making plant protein are crops like yellow peas and soybeans but in Australia the most widely grown pulses include lentils, faba beans and chickpeas.
Lead researcher at the University of Sydney, Brent Kaiser said by the end of the three-year project, Australia's plant protein food and ingredient sector should be well enough established for there to be greater local investment in protein fractionation plants, which are needed to produce the proteins from pulses.
At present Australian Plant Proteins, based in Horsham, in the midst of a large pulse producing region, is the only facility of this type in the country.
Prof Kaiser said the benefits of creating a value-adding industry were obvious.
"Australia produces about four percent of the world's pulses, putting it in plum position to be a key player in the growing plant protein market," Prof Kaiser said.
"Working with domestic and international partners with expertise in pulse seed processing and food manufacturing, we will fill a critical gap in the local plant protein food supply chain," he said.
The project will centre on creating effective refining processes to extract protein concentrates and isolates from Australia's commonly grown pulse varieties.
Industry partners AEGIC, Roquette, Clextral, All G Foods and Wide Open Agriculture, will be developing and commercialising pulse-specific processing technologies.
The annual value of the alternative meats, dairy, beverage and egg food sectors is set to rise globally from US$18.5 billion in 2019 to US$40.6 billion by 2025.
Australia's plant protein market is forecast to be worth US$3 billion (AU$4.03 billion) a year by 2030.
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