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Tuesday, 30 March 2021 14:40

State backing for plant protein sector development

Written by  Staff Reporters
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

A company, founded by two agribusiness leaders, is partnering with Government on a $20 million research and development programme that could put New Zealand on the map as a leading leaf protein concentrate producer.

Through its Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is contributing $8 million to the five-year programme with Leaft Foods to develop technology that extracts edible protein from New Zealand grown green leafy crops.

Leaft Foods was launched by John Leyland Penno and Mauro Leyland Penno in August 2019 and is based in Lincoln, Canterbury.

Penno co-founded Canterbury dairy processor Synlait and served as its chief executive until 2018.

He chairs the Pure Food Co. Limited and is a director of Okuora Holdings Limited and Thorndale Dairies Limited.

Maury was a senior executive at Fonterra from 2005, most recently stepping down as managing director people, cultrue and strategy in April 2016.

She also sits on the board of Genesis Energy and The Pure Food Company and chairs Wangapeka River Hops.

Leaft Foods' technology will be used to produce high-quality protein in the form of gels or powders that can be used in a range of foods in the global market for plant proteins.

The plant-based protein start-up will also produce an animal feed optimised for ruminant nutrition and has the potential to lower nitrogen losses and emissions on-farm.

"A growing number of global food manufacturers and consumers are demanding that their proteins come from a sustainable source," said Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

“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 low emission farm systems.”

Leaft Foods' programme aims to build on New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted exporter of high-quality protein, while reducing the environmental impact of agricultural systems.

The company aims to meet the increase in demand for plant proteins in a way that aligns with changing consumer values.

O’Connor said Leaft Foods is building a world-class team of experts to develop the technology.

“We’re thrilled to be assisting them to expand and progress their successful laboratory and technical proof-of-concept trials.”

He says the programme is a good example if the innovation the government is calling for in it’s Fit for a Better World food and fibre sector roadmap.

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