Construction on a $160 million plant-based protein processing facility is expected to start later this year near Bowden.
More Than Protein Ingredients Ltd. (MTP) is behind the project that will take yellow peas and other legumes from central Alberta farmers and turn them into a protein powder that will then be sold to other processors to be converted into everything from egg substitutes, pet food, glass (clear) noodles, yogurt, cheese and alternatives to plant-based meats and even fish-like products.
Central Alberta farmers will be big beneficiaries of the market the plant will provide, said Kevin McGeough, CEO of MTP.
Most of the yellow peas grown in Alberta are currently exported to China and other Asian countries. This project will give them a market close to home.
“The supply is already there,” said McGeough. “We have a strong relationship with farmers in central and southern Alberta and we anticipate we’ll get most of our production from within a 100-mile radius of our plant.
“Central Alberta is great pulse-growing country. Our goal is to keep it as local as possible,” he said.
“We’re establishing strong relationships with local manufacturers in Calgary and Edmonton and we’re hoping for them to take a large percentage of our production.”
The first two production lines could be in action late next year and a third is expected to be processing by the end of 2024 or early 2025, he said.
Once fully operational, the facility will be able to process up to 83,000 tonnes of yellow peas and other pulse crops into nearly 20,000 tonnes of pea- and other plant-based proteins. About 50,000 to 60,000 acres worth of peas and pulse crops will supply the plant.
McGeough said development permits are in the works and engineering is about 75 per cent done. The necessary due diligence and financing is also nearing completion.
Beyond Meat burgers are an example of a product based on yellow peas, but there are many more applications.
“It is used as a source for baking, cereals, ready-made meals, sports nutrition, beverages, and alternative meat, fish, eggs and dairy foods,” McGeough said.
Their technology may be used to create a plant-based product that acts like an egg yolk that could be used to create mayonnaise, as one example.
“That’s what the industry is starting to look for,” he added. “They’re looking for that next generation of protein so they can produce the meat and dairy alternatives of the future.
“The goal for us is to develop ingredients that help manufacturers produce better products,” he said.
“Our goal is to be able to not just have one type of protein from one feedstock, but to produce different proteins from one feedstock with different applications.”
A farm and genetics program has already been started on central Alberta and southern farms to develop certain characteristics in yellow peas to increase their protein levels and improve smell and texture characteristics.
Growing peas is also good for the environment. Peas leave nitrogen in the soil, creating a natural fertilizer and reducing the need for other fertilizers for crops such as wheat.
“Giving the project a boost was a recent announcement that MTP and partners Quantum Mechanical Technology Inc. and Hamman Ag Research Inc. had formed a partnership to develop a farm and seed program and a $29 million innovation production line to create what they call “one of the most functional plant protein ingredients available on the market.”
The facility will have three production lines, including the innovation line, which will produce a concentrate with at least 80 per cent purity.
A dry fractionation line — which breaks the plant down into protein, starch and fibre components — will create a concentrate with 50 per cent concentration and a wet fractionation line will produce a product with 80 per cent purity.
Protein Industries Canada recently announced a $5.7 million investment in the project that is expected to create 80 direct and 120 indirect jobs, as well as construction jobs.