AGT Foods and Ingredients announcing a key partnership this week with Equinom, an Israeli based company that is very strong in breeding and genetics.
AGT President and CEO Murad Al-Katib says to meet the growing global demand for better plant-based foods, we need more innovative, sustainably-produced ingredients that deliver on food functionality and fulfill the demand from both
consumers and food companies for high-quality, plant-based protein products that are good for the environment.
He says they've been working with Equinom testing a new yellow pea variety that is well suited for growers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, North Dakota and Montana.
"We've been working now, this is the third season, on trialing the variety. For the different pilot trials that we've done, the yield looks good. The characteristics are good, there's good disease packages, and you know the protein levels are dramatically higher in these varieties than what we're seeing in the mainstream varieties today."
The food ingredients business has been a really strong focus for AGT Foods and there continues to be a very strong demand for plant based protein in the world.
Al-Katib says they continue to see that as a very strong opportunity for growers and for AGT as a processor.
"The protein markets of the world are really looking at high quality protein concentrates that are going to be able to produce tasty, affordable foods."
He says the new pea varieties are in their eyes very well suited to the development of novel protein ingredients for the food industry.
"You know, we can take this back to what we see in malt barley and what we see in other crops. Where we're specifically going to be buying products with specific traits that give us the best chance of meeting that food demand. You know, you start with high protein, you end with even higher protein when you're looking at protein concentration. So these new varieties, we think are going to be very strong agronomically for our growers. They're going to be good yielding, and they're going to give us some some traits which hopefully will pass on better economics to the farm gate."
Al-Katib points out that peas aren't a variety that were necessarily bought on protein before.
"But you know, if we can start with a 27 or 28 per cent protein, versus 20 or 21 per cent. We have a chance in protein concentrates to get instead of 55 per cent protein, to get all the way up to 70 per cent protein with minimal mechanical separations and processing."
He says the goal is to take varieties that return well to the grower, give them (AGT Foods) the protein characteristic they want, and allow AGT to achieve higher protein concentrations, with less intensive processing.
"I think that's how you make affordable ingredients that are going to really contribute to the demand that we're going to see in plant-based foods."
He feels that over the next decade pulses will see a similar renaissance and growth that we saw in canola when the domestic crushing industry really started to dominate.
"We no doubt need to mill more pulses, produce more ingredients, and get out of the commodity cycle that's dependent on India and other regions of the world just demanding our pulses to fill their gaps."
He's excited about the prospects for growers with the new pea variety, the yield profile is showing gains over traditional yields, that are being grown with traditional varieties.
"The seed multiplication has been done, we've been doing the testing on the varieties. Grower programs will be launched this winter, so that we can get product planted in the spring. So, 2023 and 2024 will be ramp up years. I think 2025 will be the year where we'll be really strong with production of these varieties."
He emphasizes they are a good fit on the prairies agronomically, trials have gone well, and with the increased protein levels they are hoping to offer growers protein premiums.
AGT has been running production tests at their new extrusion factory in Regina which is where the yellow peas from this partnership will be processed.
Al-Katib is pleased with what he's seeing noting they are actually producing texturized protein, extruded flours, pellets and puffs that they're making from pulse flour.
Overall, he believes, this partnership with Equinom compliments the significant process engineering work that AGT has developed for producing plant-based protein products.