Pioneer in sustainable leaf protein production is among winners of innovation grants

Leaft Foods, which is pioneering the sustainable leaf protein industry, has been awarded an Ārohia Innovation Trailblazer grant.

By commercialising the production of Rubisco, a leaf-derived protein, Leaft Foods aims to establish a value chain that leverages local growers, infrastructure, and supply chain partnerships to create a low impact, high value protein and range of sustainable ingredients.

Judith Collins, the Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology, today announced $21.4 million in co-funded grants to businesses set to forge innovation pathways.

The first Ārohia Innovation Trailblazer grants are part of a new Callaghan Innovation fund supporting innovative New Zealanders with big ideas to take to market world-leading innovations.

“Congratulations to all of the inaugural Ārohia Grant recipients,” Mrs Collins said.

“I look forward to following your success and your positive impact on others who will follow your lead.”

Ārohia grant co-funding can be used for a wide range of non-R&D go to market activities including product and process development, and new business models.

The first Ārohia grant recipients span diverse industries and sectors from new space­ bound vehicle manufacturing and in-orbit technology development, to innovative, high-tech healthcare solutions and novel carbon reducing clean-tech.

“From the first long-haul refrigerated ship equipped to transport meat from New Zealand to our biggest export markets, to local development of low-orbit satellite launch vehicles, New Zealand has a proud tradition of world-leading innovation,” Mrs Collins said.

“There’s no doubt we have the talent, but to get to where we want to be, this country needs more visionary innovators to succeed on a global scale and more opportunities for those who follow in their footsteps.

“This Government will support innovative businesses to thrive, and I am looking forward to further promoting more of New Zealand’s talented entrepreneurs.”

Leaft Foods, founded in 2019, has set out to work in partnership with existing agricultural systems, aiming to create an integrated system that significantly reduces the environmental impact of farming on the planet, while producing sustainable food ingredients and products.

Leaft Foods’ proprietary technology converts leafy crops into high-value ingredients for use in a broad range of foods.

Leaft Foods captures Rubisco, the most plentiful protein on the planet, which exists in green leaves and responsible for photosynthesis.

The company’s technology opens a new way of food production that taps into one of the world’s most abundant and sustainable food sources. The system also produces animal feed optimised for ruminant (cattle, sheep, etc) nutrition, which lowers nitrogen losses and overall greenhouse gas emissions on-farm.

While New Zealand has an international reputation for producing sustainable, high-quality food, it is not recognised as a plant protein producer. Leaft Foods is aiming to move New Zealand towards being a global leader in plant protein, by allowing farmers and growers to diversify in a complementary way to their current farming system, whether that is dairy, sheep, beef or arable.

The creation of this new product allows growers, logistics partners, service providers and other food and fibre industry participants to build new products and services on top of this new value chain. Additionally innovative new manufacturing processes and product developments may come from this new method of extracting plant protein.

Leaft Foods will use the Ārohia Full Grant funding to help commercialise their proprietary technology and to help safeguard their IP and ensure compliance with their target markets, such as with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the United States.

Sources:  Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology and Callaghan Innovation.

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog