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By Filip Janakievski, CSIRO Filip Janakievski, CSIRO Sophie Dwyer, Wide Open Agriculture Sophie Dwyer, Wide Open Agriculture 21 February 2024 3 min read

Key points

  • We worked with Wide Open Agriculture (WOA) to harness the protein power of lupin.
  • WOA are now set to become the world’s largest lupin processor.
  • They're helping boost Australia’s capability to manufacture and supply specialist, high-value protein ingredients.

Lupin beans

There is archaeological evidence that lupin beans have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. Early varieties were bitter and needed washing or soaking prior to consumption. But a ‘sweet’ lupin variety was developed in the last century. Now, Western Australia grows over 80 per cent of the world’s lupins and is a leading exporter of Australian Sweet Lupin.

Lupin is rich in protein and fibre and has a low (or no recordable) glycaemic index. A legume, lupin is traditionally a common livestock feed. And it makes for pretty flowers, too.

A group of people trying food products
Dr Graham Arnold (fourth from left) spruiks lupin prototype sausages and cookies at a CSIRO open day in Perth, March 1976.

We don’t know what form of the bean was used in Dr Graham Arnold’s original CSIRO lupin sausages and cookies, pictured. But fast forward 45 years and we do know that now there’s a lot more interest in developing legume-based foods. There hasn’t been wide market uptake in lupin because of its texture and lack of ability to process into a useful food ingredient. But perhaps now it’s time has come.

Finally, a way to harness lupin protein

Advanced food manufacturing research has now given us a novel technique. For the first time, we can modify the structure of the protein derived from the seed of lupin. This enables it to form a gel.

This ‘gelation’ is a key feature. It means the protein can form a stable network and entrap water, flavours and other important components required for modern day food products. It could make lupin a suitable ingredient in a wide range of previously unexplored food products. 

The prototype process was developed and patented by Curtin University. We translated the process to pilot-scale in our Food Innovation Centre. It meant we could produce kilogram quantities of food-grade samples as an ingredient for market testing by food companies. This marks an important milestone as it demonstrates it’s possible to produce larger quantities.

Wide Open Agriculture is a Western Australia-based ASX listed regenerative food and farming company. They came on board as a commercial partner and exclusive global licensee. With the recent breakthroughs addressing the processing limitations of lupin, Wide Open Agriculture is creating some exciting prototypes. This includes meats, eggs, dairy, gluten-free products and supplements made of plant protein.

Preliminary taste testing has also found the samples to have a neutral taste. This helps with its potential use as a plant-based protein source across a wide spectrum of food products.

Cracking on with it

WOA are now set to become the world’s largest processor of lupin ingredients for the food industry.

In October 2023, they announced an agreement to purchase a leading European lupin protein processor in Germany. It's producing WOA’s patented product. And they have the potential to increase capacity by processing lupin protein in an ex-dairy factory in Victoria.

They’ve also secured distribution to US and UK markets. It will mean Aussie-grown lupin protein will be exported to two of the largest plant protein markets in the world.

Environmentally friendly, high-value protein

Dr Ben Cole is the Executive Director of Wide Open Agriculture. He explained that lupin works well as a crop in regenerative farming systems. The company sources their lupins from regenerative farmers in Western Australia.

“Our lupin protein product comes into its own with its environmental credentials,” Ben said.

“With plant-based products continuing to grow rapidly, we believe these eco-credentials will be important to consumers. That is a key strategy for our company.”

High value protein ingredient from lupin

Protein on a mission

New sources of plant-based protein are highly sought after. They're in demand to make consumer food alternatives in the meat, dairy, beverage and egg sectors as well as others. Demand is booming globally as well as here.

Currently, Australia has minimal capacity to meet this rapidly growing demand. And to manufacture and supply specialist, high-value protein ingredients locally. Food companies largely have to rely on imports, although this is slowly changing.

To support bridging this gap, build sovereign manufacturing capability and help feed the world, we developed the Future Protein Mission. The Mission aims to grow Australia’s protein industry by $10 billion by 2027.

Food manufacturing, like lupin, has indeed come a long way to helping meet consumer eating trends and unlocking opportunities for the Australian food industry.

This article was originally published on 20 April 2021. This is an updated version.

[Music plays and an image appears of a lupin crop, and the camera pans over the crop]

Jay Albany: With the global boom and consumer demand for new protein based foods, the legume lupin is coming into its own. 

[Image changes to show gloved hands running lupin seed through them into a bucket, and then the image changes to show Jay and a colleague entering the Wide Open Agriculture building]

Lupin has traditionally been used in Australia to feed livestock and it has been difficult to process in a useful, protein based food ingredient.

[Image changes to show Jay and a colleague walking through the building, and then the image changes to show Jay talking to the camera, and text appears: Jay Albany, CEO Wide Open Agriculture]

Hi, I’m Jay Albany and I am with regenerative food and farming company, Wide Open Agriculture, in Western Australia. 

[Images move through to show views of various researchers at work, the Food Innovation Centre building, a researcher operating a machine inside the facility, and the researcher opening a machine]

Thanks to research by Curtin University, and scale up innovation by CSIRO, there’s finally a new way to harness the power of protein from lupin. 

[Images move through to show the researcher operating a control panel, the researcher holding a stainless steel container of lupin protein, and a close view of the protein in the container]

Their advanced food manufacturing research led to a novel technique that means for the first time protein can be extracted from lupin seed.

[Image changes to show Jay talking to the camera, and then images move through to show researchers working in the manufacturing facility, and a worker weighing a packet of protein powder]

We are now making new, exciting, high-protein prototype foods from lupin like plant based milks, biscuits, bread and supplements.

[Image changes to show Jay talking to the camera and holding up a biscuit with cheese on it]

Here is an example of the wonderful prototypes we are making. This is a high-protein cheese that has the texture and bite of tasty cheese.

[Image changes to show Jay biting into the biscuit and eating it and smiling at the camera]

[Music plays and the image changes to show the CSIRO logo, and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

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