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The canola protein wave starts here in Manitoba

The announced Burcon NutraScience processing plant will be the first to bring canola protein to the commercial food market

A new processing facility may signal the kick-start of canola as the plant protein of the future.

In May, Burcon NutraScience Corporation announced it would build a $65 million pea and canola protein processing plant in Manitoba.

This is the first commercial-scale canola protein facility in the world, the company said in a news release. It didn’t give details on the location of the plant.

“We already have strong customer interest but have been unable, until now, to provide sufficient quantities of our canola proteins to these companies,” said Johann Tergesen, president and chief executive officer of Burcon NutraScience in a statement.

“The Burcon research and development team is confident there’s a lot of pent-up interest and demand resulting from our years of working with food manufacturers sampling our proteins in their product formulations,” said Tergesen.

Why it matters: Plant-based proteins appear to be the wave of the future. With canola-growers facing uncertain markets, harnessing canola protein may give them more options.

The plant is expected to begin operating mid-2020, about the same time that the world’s largest pea protein processing facility, owned by Roquette, will open near Portage la Prairie.

The Roquette plant will have the capacity to process more peas per year than Manitoba currently produces.
Canola protein “has potential to be a significant market for farmers,” said Delaney Ross Burtnack, executive director of the Manitoba Canola Growers Association.

Ross Burtnack said that, in her opinion, canola protein has the potential to become as valuable, or more valuable than canola oil.

Canola meal has been used as high-protein animal food, especially in the dairy industry, said Ross Burtnack.

The Manitoba Canola Growers have been working with researchers to develop canola protein food products. Research began in 2010 when experiments with cold-pressed canola oil led to discussions on what to do with the byproduct, or “press cake.”

Lee Anne Murphy, who managed the project, said soy meal has been used “for millennia” in Asia to produce foods like tofu. They looked to use some of that long-standing body of knowledge in their research.

Tofu is made by soaking soy meal to’ make “milk” and then coagulating the product into curds and pressing it into a cake.
Murphy found that canola “milk” could be made and then formed into a tofu-like food with a naturally golden colour and mild flavour.

Ross Burtnack said when she tried canola “milk,” she found it virtually flavourless and with a silky texture. This would make it easy to add to food without needing to mask the taste, she said.

Murphy’s team also breaded and deep-fried the tofu-like food into a crispy snack similar to a mozzarella stick.

“If you’re already eating a plant-based burger, why not a plant-based snack?” said Murphy.

The tofu-like food made from coagulating canola “milk.”
photo: Manitoba Canola Growers

The researchers also used the canola protein product to make ice cream, chocolate spread, and a softer curd with a texture similar to brie cheese.

Ross Burtnack said the Manitoba Canola Growers Association is looking for a partner to commercialize these canola protein products.

Burcon NutraScience produces Supertein, a highly-soluble canola protein isolate, and Puratein, a protein isolate composed of globulin proteins that can be used as an emulsifier and binder in food products.

“We expect you will see products incorporating Burcon pea and canola proteins to start appearing on store shelves shortly after our processing facility has been commissioned,” said Tergesen.

“I think the industry is the part we’ve been missing,” said Murphy, adding that Burcon’s manufacturing facility would allow consumers their first taste of canola protein.

“It’s pretty exciting,” she said.

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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