WINNIPEG -- A new investment announced on Friday is aimed at improving pea and fava processing in the prairies.

Protein Industries Canada, Roquette and Prairie Fava held a virtual news conference to unveil the $19.2 million investment into a research and development project that will examine nutrition and processing challenges in the prairies and explore the idea blended pea-fava protein products.

The projects also involves several sub-categories, including breeding, agronomic improvements, product testing and clinical trials.

“The project is truly Canadian,” said CEO of Protein Industries Canada Bill Greuel.

“In addition to exploring new uses for both pea and fava, including the utility of pea-fava protein products, it will also invest in research to address unique challenges of processing on the prairies, partially that means how to mitigate the effects of the very cold weather.”

He said the project will create new knowledge and technology, generate additional processes, improve efficiencies and lead to more ingredients and products.

Greuel also noted more than 11 academic institutions will be involved in the project.

“These institutions will conduct research and deliver programming to help the next generation of workers,” he said. 

The pea part of the project will look at pea varieties in Western Canada and whether they’re suitable for Roquette’s new plant. Additionally, the research will examine processing in order to improve the properties of pea protein isolates.

“We’re building a new pea protein plant facility in Portage and this will be the largest plant in the world,” said Dominique Baumann, managing director of Roquette in Canada.

“It’s supposed to start up at the end of the year, this year in 2020.”

Baumann said collaborating with Prairie Fava will lead the future of new, plant-based proteins.

“We have been working on pea protein for a long time and we are looking now at developing new proteins,” he said, noting fava beans have a lot of potential.

Baumann added their research will include, starting with seeds, working with farmers, processing the peas, and developing new markets.

“We’re really excited to start this journey here,” he said. 

The fava bean aspect of the research will mainly focus on optimizing the processing of fava beans.

Hailey Jefferies, co-founder and CEO of Prairie Fava, said this funding will allow them to increase splitting capacity, optimize processing parameters and develop products.

“We are very appreciative of this funding and the opportunities that partnership with Roquette and Protein Industries Canada provides,” she said.