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Putting more Australian pulses into the plant protein market

7 September 2021
Research funding offers foray into a rapidly growing global market.
Australian pulses will help meet the growing demand for alternative meats and dairy, and other plant protein foods, under newly funded research from the University of Sydney.
Professor Brent Kaiser in protective goggles, attending to hydroponic plants

The Transitioning Australian Pulses into Protein-based Food Industries project was awarded $993,573 in the latest round of funding announced yesterday under the Global Innovation Linkages Program by Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter yesterday. Looking at ways to convert Australian grown pulses into the plant protein ingredients and foods, the project will be funded over three years and will also receive private sector support.

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.

Most plant proteins are currently derived from soybean and yellow pea, two plants with limited scope in Australian agriculture. The University of Sydney team, from the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Engineering, will investigate turning Australian-grown pulses into plant protein ingredients and foods. 

“Australia produces about three million tonnes of chickpeas, faba (or fava) beans, mung beans, lupin, field peas and lentils a year,” said lead researcher Professor Brent Kaiser from the Faculty of Science and Sydney Institute of Agriculture. “These crops are high in dietary protein and sustainable.

“What’s lacking is the refining technology required to turn Australian pulses into protein ingredients with the correct flavour and functionality needed for food manufacturing.”

Professor Kaiser along with Professor Fariba Dehghani, Professor Roman Buckow and Professor Timothy Langrish, from the Faculty of Engineering, will investigate refining processes that will efficiently extract protein concentrates and isolates from Australia’s commonly grown pulse varieties.

Working alongside industry partners AEGIC, Roquette, Clextral, All G Foods and Wide Open Agriculture, they aim to develop and commercialise pulse-specific processing technologies.

“Our aim is do this while also minimising water and energy consumption,” said Professor Kaiser.

“At the end of this three-year project, we envisage Australia’s plant protein food and ingredient sector will be sufficiently established to encourage local investment in protein fractionation plants, which produce proteins from pulses, across Australia.

“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. 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.” 

Jocelyn Prasad

Media and Public Relations Advisor