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SA to move into plant-protein manufacturing

Grain Central, March 1, 2022

SA premier Steven Marshall with TFI managing director Darren Thomas and APP director Brendan McKeegan. Photo: Steven Marshall

A PARTNERSHIP involving Thomas Foods International (TFI), Australia Milling Group, Australian Plant Proteins (APP), and the South Australian (SA) and Federal governments plans to build three plant-protein manufacturing facilities in SA.

The plants are expected to jointly produce 25,000 tonnes of pulse-protein isolates annually.

The Federal Government is contributing $113 million to the project, being facilitated under the Collaboration Stream of its Modern Manufacturing Initiative,while the SA Government has pledged $65M.

APP co-founder and director Brendan McKeegan said the consortium will put Australia on the map in terms of manufacturing and exporting plant proteins.

APP is the owner of Australia’s only commercial scale pulse protein extraction facility and will take a leading role in developing the product, and US-based grain trader and agrifood company Bunge last year bought a stake in it.

“The facilities our consortium plans to build will provide an important value-add route to market for our pulse crops, and position Australia as a key player on the world stage as a premium supplier of plant-based products and ingredients,” Mr McKeegan said.

Grain Central understands one of the three plants will be built on the existing AGT site at Bowmans.

The consortium will have two streams: ingredient and downstream.

“The ingredient stream, which is predominantly our stream…sells an ingredient to other manufacturers, locally and internationally, and they can then turn that into various products.

“This, as well as the international exporting opportunity…really puts Australia on the map in terms of our ability to compete.”

New territory for TFI

The move into the plant-protein industry is new territory for TFI, which is predominantly a red meat-producing and processing business.

TFI managing director Darren Thomas said the company has been looking to diversify into the industry for about five years.

“Some of our overseas businesses are already selling this product,” Mr Thomas said.

“It’s an important move for us, although it is certainly not going to replace our core business.

“Remember these alternative proteins are not just about meat; there are milks and all sorts of other opportunities.”

TFI managing director Darren Thomas

Mr Thomas said TFI will play a “downstream” role in the partnership, leveraging its distribution chain currently exporting to 85 different countries.

He said the project is expected to create about 80 jobs  at TFI alone.

TFI operates meatworks at Lobethal in SA and Tamworth in New South Wales, and is building a plant at Murray Bridge in SA to replace its previous one destroyed by fire in 2018.

Manufacturing boon for SA

Minister for Finance and Senator for South Australia Simon Birmingham said the investment was a win for SA’s pulse farmers and it would take the state’s manufacturing capabilities to a new level.

“This investment by Government along with the private sector will put SA ahead of the pack in the manufacturing of products for the high-growth domestic and booming global plant-based foods market,” Mr Birmingham said.

“It is a major step forward in transforming South Australia into a plant-based protein manufacturing and export powerhouse.

“It will not only generate thousands of local jobs but has the potential to generate billions in export dollars for our state.

“Demand for plant-based foods is booming globally.

“Just as SA leads Australia in renewable energy generation, this investment will put us at the forefront of capitalising on this environmental trend too.”

New export industry

SA Premier Steven Marshall said the announcement would create a large-scale plant-based food and beverage value chain for SA, and unlocked a entirely new export industry for the state, and the nation.

“SA is already world-renowned for our premium food and produce and we now have a first mover opportunity to capitalise on the emerging global demand for plant protein-based food,” Mr Marshall said.

The project is expected to generate up to $4 billion in exports by 2032, including to the US, South-east Asia and Europe.

To further fast-track the development of green protein products by food manufacturers, the partnership will also work with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), to establish a Research and Development Hub to foster collaboration between the consortium, farmers, the Australian food and beverage manufacturing industry and a network of Australian researchers.

NOTE: This article contains extracts from Federal and SA Government media releases.

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