Future high-protein peas: Roquette invests in Israeli seed breeding company

Future high-protein peas: Roquette invests in Israeli seed breeding company

18 Oct 2018 --- Roquette and Equinom, an innovative Israeli-based breeding technology company, have signed a partnership agreement for the development and sourcing of new pea varieties with high-protein content. In addition to this new collaboration, Roquette and Equinom’s current shareholder Fortissimo Capital will jointly invest US$4 million in the company to support its further development. 

This is the first agreement and investment made by Roquette in Israel. Through this collaboration, Roquette is able to be involved on the cutting edge of new non-GMO plant variety development addressing industrial needs and consumer expectations. 

To date, Equinom has signed a number of breeding contracts with global leaders in the food industry. These include a multi-year contract with Sabra Dipping Company, LLC, a joint venture of PepsiCo., Inc., and Israel’s Strauss Group Ltd., as well as a commercialization agreement with Mitsui of Japan.

Roquette offers an increasingly broad range of high-quality plant-based ingredients, particularly pea proteins, to the food, nutrition and health markets. Equinom, a computational breeding company founded in 2012, is developing a full portfolio of non-GMO legumes that have 50 percent more protein than varieties currently on the market, creating the conditions for a future worldwide shift to a plant-based diet. The companies have signed a multi-year agreement for the development of high-protein and high-yield pea varieties with unique characteristics to suit the needs of innovative food developers. The resulting pea varieties could be grown and be marketed worldwide. 

Equinom will use the investment to further develop products that are essential to new food applications, complementary to animal-based nutrition. Equinom’s advanced computational breeding technology is based on proprietary algorithms and calculation methods, which combine classic breeding with genomic and bio-informatics methods. Equinom develops novel, multiple-trait products that achieve maximum accuracy and economic efficiency.

Click to Enlarge
Pascal Leroy, Vice-President of Roquette’s
Pea and New Protein business line

For Pascal Leroy (pictured), Vice-President of Roquette’s Pea and New Protein business line, the move reaffirms Roquette’s ambition to position itself as a pioneer in the whole value chain for plant-based proteins. “This partnership agreement is a major step in developing high-protein pea proteins and enables us to provide our customers around the world with high-quality plant-based ingredients,” he tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“We have also been involved in the French project PeaMUST, which gathers several pea breeding companies and broad scientific and technical partnerships. We are definitively committed to contributing to the development of new sustainable high-protein production in order to offer ingredients tailored to the needs of food, nutrition and health markets and to better answer a growing consumer demand,” says Leroy. 

Details on a specific timeline for the commercialization of potential products are not being revealed. “This partnership is a major step in the implementation of Roquette’s strategy as a pioneer in plant-based proteins. These new varieties are at the research and development stage and the first prototypes have been developed,” says Leroy. “Thanks to the expertise and knowledge of the seed breeding company Equinom, new high-protein and high-yield pea varieties should be available in the near future,” he adds, however.

“The partnership with Roquette is an important achievement for Equinom, enabling it to leapfrog its high-protein pea program and commercialize its varieties with the leading global player in the market,” Yoav Hineman, Partner at Fortissimo Capital, adds. “Using its proprietary software-based breeding system, Equinom continues to revolutionize significant global crops by introducing key traits in record time. Since inception, Equinom introduced varieties in sesame that can be harvested mechanically, protein-rich legumes, high-yield quinoa, and is currently targeting additional crops. Fortissimo Capital reiterates its commitment to support Equinom’s growth plans. The investment is part of our strategic effort to identify and invest in market-leading food-tech and ag-tech companies around the world.”

Commenting on the partnership, Gil Shalev, Equinom founder and CEO, says: “The agreement with Roquette is a major milestone for Equinom, and its investment in our company is a vote of confidence in our technology and its ability to transform the plant protein market. The agreement will guarantee the full commercialization of Equinom’s high-protein pea varieties. It will also facilitate the introduction of additional plant protein to market and enable Equinom to attain its mission of increasing the production of high-quality, sustainable food ingredients that are changing the types of foods consumed.”

For Carole Petitjean, Head of Corporate Communications at Roquette, the investment represents a major step forward in the implementation of Roquette’s strategy in plant-based proteins. “We aim to offer an increasingly broad range of high-quality plant-based ingredients, particularly pea proteins, to the Food, Nutrition and Health markets,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “In addition, we remain open to and will continue to explore opportunities. We are also looking at any other legume or plant-based raw materials to answer the growing consumer demand for plant-based protein solutions,” Petitjean adds.

Roquette is increasingly strengthening its position in alternative proteins, with a strong focus on pea proteins in particular. Last month, the company acquired a facility specialized in the extrusion of plant-based proteins in the Netherlands. The facility acquired from Texpall B.V. benefits from a unique expertise in the extrusion of plant-based proteins, especially pulse proteins.

By Robin Wyers 

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