Government supports new programme to lead New Zealand’s plant protein sector development


The Government is partnering with Leaft Foods on a $20 million research and development programme that could put New Zealand on the map as a leading leaf protein concentrate producer.

Through its Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund, the Ministry for Primary Industries is contributing $8 million to the five-year programme to develop technology that extracts edible protein from New Zealand grown green leafy crops.

Leaft Foods’ technology will be used to produce high-quality protein in the form of gels or powders that can be used in a range of foods in the fast-growing global market for plant proteins. The plant-based protein start-up will also produce an animal feed that is optimised for ruminant nutrition and has the potential to lower nitrogen losses and emissions on-farm.

“A growing number of global food manufacturers and consumers are demanding that their proteins come from a sustainable source,” said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“This could be a game-changer for pastoral enterprises seeking to take environmental leadership, by providing them with a low impact, locally sourced feed, and the opportunity to diversify into low emission farm systems.

Leaft Foods’ programme aims to build on New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted exporter of high-quality protein, while reducing the environmental impact of agricultural systems. It aims to meet the increase in demand for plant proteins in a way that aligns with changing consumer values.

Damien O’Connor said that Leaft Foods is building a world-class team of experts to develop the technology. “We’re thrilled to be assisting them to expand and progress their successful laboratory and technical proof-of-concept trials.”

“This programme is a great example of the types of innovation and value-add we’re calling for through our food and fibre sector roadmap, Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our economic potential.”

Leaft Foods was founded by Dr John Leyland Penno and Maury Leyland Penno, and was launched in August 2019. The company is based in Lincoln, Canterbury.