THE future of pulse protein was high on the agenda at the WA Agtech Meetup last week, with a focus on lupins and what it means for Western Australian growers as the demand grows.
The Lupin Co managing director and 'chief lupinologist' David Fienberg was one of the speakers at the event, discussing the journey of taking lupins from sheep feed to human food.
With a few lupin varieties in the world market, the Australian sweet lupins are the ones Mr Fienberg grows, processes and is clearly passionate about.
"You ain't got lupins unless you have Australian sweet lupins," Mr Fienber said.
"These are quite different, they are a beautiful speckled bean, about five millimetres across, 40 per cent protein and only 4pc carbs and they are the world's largest combination of protein and dietary carbohydrates at 40pc."
As the world has shifted towards a more flexitarian diet, Mr Fienber said he has seen more opportunities for lupins.
With their high protein, low carb make-up they fit into many people's dietary requirements, along with having the added benefit of being gluten free.
Their high fibre content also works as a prebiotic, helping with a healthy gut.
Mr Fienber believes as such the demand for plant proteins is unlimited.
"Global demand for plant-based protein is exponential, by 2030 the overall demand for plant and dairy based protein will be worth $161 billion," he said.
Western Australia has the monopoly on sweet lupins, according to Mr Fienber, growing 90 pc of them.
As we move forward into 2022, he also believes provenance and conscious consumers will drive customers to look at plant-based proteins, increasing the demand.
However when it comes to convincing the farmer to come on board, it always comes down to answering simple problems.
"The farmers around me have been concerned about getting good varieties that don't shed easily when the header goes through, but that's pretty much solved now," said Wide Open Agriculture managing director Ben Cole.
"Then it's just a gross margin compared to other crops they could put in the ground.
"Many farmers don't plant as many lupins as they'd like to, they all would like to plant more and with a strong price signal they certainly would."
Mr Cole believes that pulse production has so many benefits and that farmers, despite being in a conventional farming system will move to growing pulses if there is a strong pull factor to do so.
Australian Plant Proteins co-founder and director Brendan McKeegan also agreed, adding on how we are well-positioned to jump into this market now and get a head start before other countries like Canada do.
He sees manufacturing companies such as Lupin Co, Wide Open Agriculture and Australian Plant Proteins as providing opportunities directly between the consumer and the farmer.
"What we're doing is finally joining the dots between the consumer and the farmer,'' Mr McKeegan said.
"Contracting farmers to grow for a specific downstream demand, that's critical to underpin a farmers business."
According to Mr McKeegan, in places such as Canada, pulses are already starting to have equal footing to grains.
"There is a window of opportunity that we need to run really quickly to capture because if we don't the Canadians will - they already are and they are being very progressive about it, so are the Europeans," he said.
Want weekly news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Farm Weekly newsletter.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.