With the world’s population expected to reach unprecedented levels by 2050 and a 73% projected increase in meat consumption, there is an urgent need to double food production. Australia’s plant protein market is poised to reach an estimated value of $18 billion (AUD) by 2032, while the global plant protein food sector is projected to hit $1.4 trillion (USD) by 2050. Recent data reveals a growing interest in cultivating pulse crops in Australia, including chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, field peas, and lupins. Traditionally, these crops have been undervalued, often relegated to uses like stockfeed or bulk exports to countries such as India and China.
The Plant Protein Atlas Initiative is a consortium of plant growers, breeders, researchers and omics technology experts. In collaboration with the NCRIS-enabled Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, Bioplatforms Australia and its partners aim to harness genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics and phenomics technologies to fast-track fundamental research to add value to pulses through the production of protein concentrates, isolates, starch, and fibre.
The initiative has three primary objectives:
- Fast-track Fundamental Research: Creating a reference ‘omics data resource for pulse varieties to guide and support progress in genetic and agronomy research to optimize pulse crops for protein harvest and processing, taking into account how desirable traits develop over time, space, and various environmental conditions
- Showcase a Proof-of-Concept: The initiative aims to demonstrate the development of complementary resources called ‘Atlases could serve as a model for other industries seeking to transform traditional outputs into specific value-added opportunities
- Build a National Network of Stakeholders: Bioplatforms Australia and its partners will work to bring together government entities, researchers, growers and manufacturers to support the ongoing effort to develop a high-quality Australian plant protein production industry.
The initiative is set to tackle crucial knowledge gaps, including characterising the correlation between yield and seed quality in selected pulse crops, assessing variations in protein content and seed composition across different regions and within paddocks, and profiling the effects of environmental stressors such as frost, heat, terminal drought, and soil composition on seed quality, encompassing off-flavour traits. This new information will provide invaluable insights that will ultimately lead to the development of more resilient and flavourful plant-based protein products.
Fava bean has been chosen as the pilot crop for this initiative, partnering with SARDI to access commercial varieties of fava bean from two field trials. This first phase will combine agronomy, environmental and nutritional data in a user-friendly atlas for a wide range of stakeholders and end uses. To date, we have completed the data generation for the fava bean imaging from our NCRIS partner, the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF). The data generation for proteomics and metabolomics are currently in progress.
The Plant Protein Atlas Initiative is led by Prof Tony Bacic and a Project Committee with representatives from key stakeholders.
- Tony Bacic (Chair) – La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food (LIAF), La Trobe University (LTU)
- Mabel Lum (Project Manager) – Bioplatforms Australia
- Bettina Berger – Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF)
- Farah Zaib Khan – Australian BioCommons
- Janine Croser – SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI)
- Julie Hayes – SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI)
- Jeff Christiansen – Australian BioCommons
- Jim Whelan – LIAF, LTU
- Kedar Adhikari – University of Sydney
- Kelly Scarlett – Bioplatforms Australia
- Lachlan Lake – SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI)
- Marisa Collins – LIAF, LTU
- Markus Herderich – Metabolomics Australia – AWRI
- Matthew Tinning – Australian Genome Research Facility (AGRF)
- Nicolas Taylor – University of Western Australia
- Peter Hoffmann – UniSA Proteomics Facility
- Richard Trethowan – University of Sydney
- Steven Manos – Australian BioCommons
Prof Tony Bacic, La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food (LIAF) – Chair <T.Bacic@latrobe.edu.au>
Dr Mabel Lum – Project Manager <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sarah Richmond – Program Manager <email@example.com>