Pulse-pow­der build-up

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

De­mand for high-qual­ity plant­based pro­tein has primed a $20-mil­lion Hor­sham ven­ture for an $80-mil­lion to $100-mil­lion ex­pan­sion within the next three years.

Aus­tralian Plant Pro­teins, on sched­ule to start pro­duc­ing pulse-pro­tein pow­der from a Hor­sham plant by mid2020, is al­ready deep into plan­ning for a se­cond project phase.

Com­pany spokesman Phil Mcfarlane con­firmed yes­ter­day that early plan­ning was un­der­way for an­other Hor­sham fac­tory, but on a larger scale on a green­field site.

He said in­ter­na­tional de­mand for plant-based pro­tein, part of a de­sire to find more ways of get­ting pro­tein into the di­ets of in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tions, was a pow­er­ful mar­ket driver.

“We are go­ing to have the only plant-based pro­tein man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in the south­ern hemi­sphere,” he said.

“We’re pretty unique and we’re in Hor­sham. In fact, Hor­sham and the Wim­mera is right in the spot­light and set to be the base of an ex­cit­ing new in­dus­try in­volv­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing of high-grade food from raw ma­te­rial grown in the dis­trict.

“We have lit­tle choice but to kick start strate­gic dis­cus­sion for stage-two de­vel­op­ment. It’s based on mar­ket ap­proaches by var­i­ous in­dus­tries for a range of prod­ucts that seem to be ex­pand­ing by the week.

“Com­pa­nies are look­ing at us­ing plant-pro­tein pow­der for every­thing from bev­er­ages and snack foods right through to ve­gan prod­ucts.

“De­mand is go­ing off the charts. We’ve needed to start the con­ver­sa­tion in­volv­ing a se­cond stage be­cause the mar­ket keeps mov­ing and we need to be able to meet that de­mand.

“Within two years’ time we need to be able to im­me­di­ately move to a se­cond line and a se­cond site.

“In our minds we have al­ready passed this first stage. With the mar­ket be­ing white-hot there is pres­sure on to get the first line up as quickly as pos­si­ble. We have no choice but to turn our think­ing to a se­cond phase and the size of that is a de­ci­sion we have to make in com­ing months.”

Op­por­tu­ni­ties

Mr Mcfarlane said he would pro­vide a snap­shot of new prod­uct lines and mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in­volv­ing pulses, as well has his firm’s Wim­mera project, dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion to Aus­tralian Pulse Con­fer­ence in Hor­sham on Wed­nes­day next week.

He will speak at the con­fer­ence at Grains In­no­va­tion Park from 1.30pm to 2pm and join a panel dis­cus­sion from 4.30pm.

Crit­i­cal in­vest­ment ear­lier this year opened the fi­nal door for Aus­tralian Plant Pro­teins, a sub­sidiary of EAT Group, to push ahead in set­ting the foun­da­tions in the new multi-mil­lion­dol­lar plant-pro­tein in­dus­try.

Phase one of the project in­cludes the es­tab­lish­ment of a $20-mil­lion man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Carine Street in Hor­sham’s En­ter­prise Es­tate.

Pulses grown by Wim­mera-mallee farm­ers, re­gard­less of grad­ing is­sues caused by drought or frost, will pro­vide raw prod­uct for the patent-pro­tected pow­der-man­u­fac­tur­ing process.

Mr Mcfarlane, who grew up on his fam­ily farm at Brim, said peo­ple would no­tice a hive of ac­tiv­ity at the Carine Street site from next month.

He said the com­pany had start­ing re­cruit­ing top-end man­age­ment staff and would ad­ver­tise for Hor­sham team mem­bers at the end of the year.

For the first project stage, the Hor­sham plant will have a staff of 20.

“We are com­ing out of a de­sign stage while do­ing all our trial test­ing from our Wer­ribee re­search and de­vel­op­ment site. We are lock­ing down the in­te­rior foot­print of the Hor­sham plant and planned ex­pan­sion, and fi­nal­is­ing ten­der doc­u­ments and equip­ment and util­ity sup­pli­ers,” he said.

“The build will start in the back end of Novem­ber and most of the fit-out on the site will start be­fore Christ­mas.

“Ex­ten­sion of a roof and all in­ter­nal work and hook­ing up to util­i­ties will all hap­pen from De­cem­ber. Equip­ment will then be in­stalled with com­mis­sion­ing in the May, June pe­riod.”

Faba beans are the com­pany’s pri­mary source for the pro­tein pow­der but the com­pany has been busy ex­plor­ing a va­ri­ety of al­ter­na­tive crops such as red and yel­low lentils and ‘spent’ grains.

The plant will ini­tially need 12,500 tonnes of raw prod­uct to pro­duce 2500 tonnes of fin­ished pro­tein prod­uct.

As part of a broad value-adding and sus­tain­abil­ity process there is no waste, with an­other 10,000 tonnes of raw fi­bre and starch also set for the mar­ket.

The com­pany al­ready has cus­tomers from Amer­ica, Canada and Europe seek­ing re­peat or­ders of sam­ples and con­sid­er­able in­ter­est from Aus­tralian com­pa­nies.

“The more we talk the more cus­tomers we seem to be at­tract­ing,” Mr Mcfarlane said.

“Over time we ex­pect to ex­port more than 90 per­cent of what we man­u­fac­ture.

“De­mand for plant-based pro­tein is not a fad or short-term trend. It is here to stay and we’re at the start of an up­ward jour­ney.”

Mr Mcfarlane said the over­all project was an ex­am­ple of value-adding a high-value pri­mary prod­uct and he pre­dicted it would sig­nal an­other change in what broad­acre farm­ers grew.

“The Wim­mera is re­ally al­ready the pulse cap­i­tal of Aus­tralia,” he said.

“A lot of time, ef­fort and so­phis­ti­ca­tion at the farm gate has gone into grow­ing these high­value crops to sim­ply sell away as a com­mod­ity.

“It’s been sit­ting un­der our feet for 40 years and now is the time to get some real down­stream value out of it. My pre­dic­tion is that in five to 10 years it will be pulses, not wheat and bar­ley, that dom­i­nate our crops.

“The world needs much more pro­tein, sim­ply to meet the needs of a larger pop­u­la­tion and peo­ple will need choices to meet this de­mand.”

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