Fababean growers in Western Canada will soon gain access to another domestic market for their crop.
Faba Canada recently announced that it has acquired a milling facility near Legal, Alta., north of Edmonton.
The facility will fractionate fababeans and produce a high-quality protein concentrate.
The mill is the former Mountain Meadows Pea Butter facility.
Brad Goudy, a fababean promoter and owner of Faba Canada, said the plant has been acquired under a lease-to-own arrangement.
Goudy is upgrading the facility and intends to be operational this fall.
In addition to producing a fababean protein powder, the facility will continue to produce a peanut butter substitute product that uses fababeans as a feedstock, rather than field peas.
“This is just the initial step in bringing value-added processing to fababeans,” said Goudy, from Melfort, Sask.
“The plant protein industry is rapidly expanding and fababeans have a number of competitive advantages over field peas that currently dominate the protein fractionation business in Canada.”
Compared to other pulse crops such as field peas and lentils, Canadian fababean acreage is small.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadian farmers planted fewer than 100,000 acres of the crop in 2019 and produced around 110,000 tonnes.
Despite those numbers, Goudy is enthusiastic about the crop’s potential in Western Canada.
Fababeans have a higher protein level than peas and they are more palatable.
Field peas can have a bitter aftertaste. Because of this, many food companies often add taste-modifying ingredients to improve palatability.
Fababeans also have an aftertaste, but according to Goudy it is milder than that of field peas. Faba Canada also owns a proprietary chemical-free process to remove the aftertaste of fababeans.
Fababeans have also proven to be a good fit for the parkland regions of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Although acreage is small and marketing opportunities have been limited, the crop produces well in areas that are subject to high rainfall and wet soil conditions.
Fababeans are also more resistant to diseases that affect many other pulse crops and they fix more nitrogen than field peas.
In a recent news release, Faba Canada said it will be able to produce dry milled fababean product with 70 percent protein.
Peas can only reach that level of protein with the addition of much more expensive wet-milled product.
Faba Canada also has distribution rights for a new variety of fababean called Fabelle.
According to Faba Canada, the early-maturing variety is healthier than existing fababean varieties which have anti-nutritional property called vicine-convicine.
In Fabelle, the vicine-convicine factor has been reduced by 99 percent, using traditional breeding methods, Goudy said.
Markets for fababeans have been a limiting factor for production.
In the past, most of the crop that’s produced in Western Canada has been sold into animal feed markets, although some beans are exported for human consumption, primarily to Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations.
Promoters including the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, believe the crop has considerable potential in human consumption markets, particularly as a protein concentrate.
The crop’s potential in the protein fractionation market has not gone unnoticed by global food manufacturers.
During a recent global pulse crop conference hosted by the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC), Randy Duckworth, the executive director of GPC, said he is optimistic about future demand for the crop.
“Every major fractionation manufacturer in the world right now is looking at fababeans as a potential ingredient,” he said.
Over the past seven years, Faba Canada and its predecessor Goudy Ag Products has been one of the largest buyers and sellers of fababeans in Western Canada, Goudy said.
Domestic value-added processing will add to producer profitability and will create new marketing opportunities.
“Our first facility will draw fababeans from the parkland regions of both Alberta and Saskatchewan with more processing capacity on the drawing board,” Goudy said.
“The area of fababeans in the two provinces is only about 100,000 acres, but we anticipate up to a million acres in the not-too-distant future.”
The Faba Canada facility north of Edmonton is expected to be in operation by October.
Goudy said the plant will process an estimated 16,000 tonnes of faba beans in the first year with volumes increasing in future years.
Faba Canada is not the only company hoping to kick start the fababean fractionation industry.
C-Merak Foods has plans to build a fababean fractionation plant in Tisdale, Sask.
On its website, C-Merak Foods says construction of that plant is scheduled to begin soon. That plant is expected to be operational by late 2021.
Goudy said the capital investment needed to get into the milling and fractionation business is significant.
Faba Canada’s acquisition of an existing mill will allow the company to get into value-added processing with a lower initial investment.
The company is also in the process of developing a share offering for growers and other interested investors, Goudy said.