$19.2 million announced for faba bean and pea processing research

Protein Industries Canada has announced a $19.2 million project looking at faba bean (also called fava bean) and pea processing on the Canadian prairies.

The main partners and private funders in the project announced on Friday are Roquette — the French company that’s building a $400 million pea processing plant at Portage, Man. — and Prairie Fava, a small faba bean processor located near Glenboro, Man.

The funding will focus on ways to incorporate more faba protein in food products, as well as addressing the unique challenges of processing peas and faba beans in the cold Prairie climate. There will also be sub-projects related to breeding and agronomic improvements.

“We have been working on pea protein for a long time and we are looking now at developing new proteins. Fava beans is one of the raw materials which has a big potential for Roquette and for the world,” notes Dominique Baumann, managing director for Roquette in Canada. “This will allow us to create new ingredients and new solutions for what the consumers are asking for.”

Some of the funds will go toward expanding processing capacity at Prairie Fava’s splitting and dehulling facility at Glenboro, with construction starting this summer. The partnership will also invest in developing end-products and pea-faba ingredient blends.

“The partnership of Prairie Fava and Roquette, with the support of PIC, will lead to expanded skills development, research and development and, ultimately, capacity for the fava value-chain through boosting technical compatibility of collaborative research organizations and co-manufacturers working on fava,” says Hailey Jefferies,  CEO of Prairie Fava.

Faba bean is known for being high in protein, but neutral in flavour relative to some other plant protein sources, she notes.

The faba processing and marketing business was founded by Hailey and Cale Jefferies in 2015 and supplies whole faba bean, dehulled split faba bean, and raw and precooked faba flour to North American markets, with some exports to Japan.

In addition to Roquette and Prairie Fava, the project is expected to involve 11 Canadian academic and research institutions and two additional private partners with relevant expertise and research capacity.

“It’s building on Canada’s strength in pulse crop production and will bring solutions to overcome specific challenges with processing in Canada,” says Bill Greuel, CEO of Protein Industries Canada. “It’s also taking technology from a Canadian SME (small/medium enterprise) and applying that to large-scale projects to help create new ingredients and end-products.”

Funding for the project is split 50/50, with $9.6 million coming from the federally-funded Protein Industries Canada supercluster and $9.6 million from industry partners.

With this project, the prairie protein supercluster has invested $79 million in projects across Western Canada, and is currently accepting applications in its third call for projects.

Roquette, meanwhile, is planning to open its large new pea processing plant at Portage, Man. at the end of 2020, as Baumann says construction has continued while following public health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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