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Wide Open Ag, Saputo terminate MoU on lupin protein

Grain Central, June 6, 2024

Western Australia’s Wide Open Ag is working to scale up production of Buntine Protein, a lupin-based protein ingredient. Photo: Wide Open Ag

PLANT protein company Wide Open Agriculture and Saputo Dairy Australia have mutually agreed to terminate a Memorandum of Understanding, a partnership that was expected to kick-start commercial production of lupin protein in Australia.

Announced in 2023, the non-binding MoU was the first step towards an agreement which would enable Wide Open Ag to produce its lupin product, Buntine Protein, at a Saputo facility.

In a release to the ASX on Thursday, Wide Open Ag said both parties “mutually agreed to terminate the MoU”.

“Both parties have concluded that their current priorities and timing do not align with pursuing a final binding agreement at this stage,” the statement said.

“Under the previous MoU, [Wide Open Ag] and [Saputo Dairy Australia] had been discussing a framework for producing large commercial quantities of Buntine Protein, a lupin-based protein product.

“Despite the termination, both parties acknowledge the potential for future collaboration when the timing and priorities are better aligned.”

The initial term of the agreement was to be for five years, with a five-year extension term subject to mutual agreement.

Wide Open Ag would pay a fee per tonne produced to Saputo, as well as a minimal annual fee.

The company would also be responsible for purchasing equipment specific to its manufacturing process and installing this equipment at the premises.

It was anticipated that the site could produce up to 5000 tonnes of Buntine Protein per year.

The agreement was initially required to be formalised by 15 December 2023.

However, on March 28 it was announced that the time-frame would be extended to June 30.

In a release to the ASX, Wide Open Ag said both “parties remain enthusiastic about the potential for Buntine Protein and large-scale production in Australia”.

Direction unchanged

Wide Open Ag said despite this setback, its “commercial strategy remains unchanged” and the company was “focused on converting its sales pipeline to fully utilise the capacity within its German production facility in the near term”.

“Currently, [Wide Open Ag] has the capability to produce Buntine Protein at a capacity of 500 tonnes per annum and can scale production in a modular manner at the Grimmen plant to meet future demand.

“For now, [Wide Open Ag’s] primary resources will be directed towards achieving near-term sales, with a strategic commitment to revisit large-scale commercial production as necessary.”

Saputo Australia operations

It was unclear which Saputo facility Wide Open Ag was planning to utilise to manufacture Buntine Protein.

The company is Australia’s largest dairy processor and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canadian company Saputo Inc.

It currently owns 10 manufacturing sites, but is in the process of selling two facilities, Laverton North in Victoria and Erskine Park in New South Wales, to Coles.

The remaining plants are: King Island, Smithton and Burnie in Tasmania, Mil-Lel in South Australia, and Cobram, Kiewa, Leongatha and Allansford in Victoria.

In November it announced plans to review operations at King Island, with the potential to sell the facility.

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