Spearheaded by grass and forage seed specialists and breeder Germinal, the project aims to use peas as a home-grown protein source that can replace soya in human foods.
Unlike soya, peas are suited to the UK climate and are regarded as more environmentally friendly. They are also known to boost soil health by fixing free nitrogen from the air and leave some in the ground for the next crop.
Cross industry collaboration
Germinal Horizon – the company’s research and innovation division – will collaborate with The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, the John Innes Centre, and The Processors and Growers Research Organisation to address three important challenges: the urgent need to replace soy with UK protein crops; meeting market demand for taste and functionality; and growing a soya protein alternative sustainably.
Dr Catherine Howarth from IBERS at Aberystwyth University, one of the researchers on the project, said: “Peas have an excellent nutritional profile and are an important part of sustainable rotations in UK agriculture.
“They can also help reduce our reliance on imported soya, which will support society in meeting the government’s net zero targets. There is a vast array of products that include peas as an ingredient and we are excited to be part of this project.”
Germinal UK & Ireland managing director Paul Billings described the search for a sustainably alternative to soya as a priority for the food industry.
“Protein crops such as peas are ideal for the UK climate but one of our challenges is their flavour profile in human food,” he added. “Pea flavours are undesirable for consumers in processed food, so the goal is to produce peas that are tasteless but retain nutritional value.
“The gene for flavourless peas was first identified in the 1990s by scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich. This exciting breeding programme will use innovative research in pea genetics to develop new varieties without the traditionally associated problems.”
Meanwhile, Naylor Nutrition, part of Naylor Farms, the coleslaw cabbage farm, has started the build of a €38m facility in Lincolnshire which will produce three brassica-based protein ingredients.