31st March 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | firstname.lastname@example.org | @foodtickernz
Plant protein startup Leaft Foods has secured government backing for a $20m programme to accelerate its entry into the fast-growing global plant protein market.
The circa two-year old business has been allocated $8m from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund as it seeks to produce protein powder and gel for use in a range of food products that have a lighter environmental footprint than either animal or grain-based sources of protein.
The Canterbury-headquartered company would partner with farmers to grow leafy crops that remove nitrogen from soil. The crop is both the raw material for the protein manufacture and an animal feed that is optimised for ruminant nutrition and has the potential to lower nitrogen losses and emissions on-farm.
Leatft said the five-year programme would develop technology that extracts the edible protein from the crops, while on-farm trials would demonstrate a viable pathway to adoption and commercial uptake for New Zealand farmers and credentialing the system’s economic and environmental benefits.
“We are building on New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted producer of high-quality protein. Our vision is to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural systems and to meet the increase in demand for plant proteins that align with consumer values,” founder Maury Leyland Penno said.
“More consumers are seeking out tasty and nutritious plant-based foods, which is apparent when you look at how supermarket shelves have changed over the past few years.”
According to a recent report from US research firm MarketsandMarkets the global plant-based protein market is now worth US$10.3bn, and amif rising demand for alternative protein sources it is forecast to grow 7.2% annually to see its worth balloon to US$15.6bn by 2026.
Leyland Penno added: “Our mission is to demonstrate the viability of a sustainable and market-responsive farming system. Backing from MPI accelerates our ability to do that and places us in the leading pack of global food innovators.”
The former Fonterra senior executive founded Leaft Foods in August 2019 alongside agricultural scientist and co-founder of Synlait Milk, Dr John Leyland Penno. That same year it secured a Research and Development Project Grant from Callaghan Innovation, and followed that up with the appointment of Ross Milne as general manager at the beginning of last year.
Milne said that the new investment would see Leaft expand on its “successful preliminary research and build an exceptional team of people” to deliver the pre-commercialisation programme.
In announcing the SFF Futures partnership, agriculture minister Damien O’Connor noted that a growing number of global food manufacturers and consumers are demanding that their proteins come from a sustainable source.
“This could be a game-changer for pastoral enterprises seeking to take environmental leadership, by providing them with a low impact, locally sourced feed, and the opportunity to diversify into low emission farm systems,” he said.
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