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09 October 2019
By DEAN LAWSON
Demand for high-quality plant-based 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 mid-2020, 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.
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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.”
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-million-dollar 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 high-value 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.”
The entire October 9, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!