The Canadian firm, which already manufactures canola proteins on a small scale at a plant in Saskatoon, is looking for a strategic partner to invest in mass-scale production.
Speaking to analysts last week, BioExx chief executive Chris Schnarr said a study from GEA Process Engineering confirmed the feasibility for plant sizes of 40,000 metric tons a year (at Saskatoon) and 80,000t/year (a larger greenfield site) at an estimated cost of US$65m and US$130m respectively.
BioExx: Canola protein benefits are understood; the issue is whether they can be produced economically at scale
However, the challenge was not convincing a partner that there is a market for high purity canola protein, but persuading them that it can be produced economically, at scale, said Schnarr.
“The main issue is not whether or not it is a good protein, that’s known, that’s understood… It’s not whether or not you believe there is a market.
“The most fundamental issue or question that needs to be addressed is does it work and is it scalable and what are the economics?”
Purity levels of 90-97%
And crucially, the GEA report showed that BioExx’s technology was scalable, he said, noting that the Saskatoon plant was now averaging purity levels of 93% for BioExx’s Isolexx canola proteins - but could go up to 97%.
“This is maybe the biggest opportunity in the global protein market in 50 years… and we feel today that we are holding the keys.
“The technology is strong, it is feasible, it is scalable and can drive very compelling economic returns.
“We look to deliver to partners a complete package for implementation on a turnkey, engineered, constructed installed and commissioned basis with performance guarantees. The risk of further investment in the implementation of our technology has therefore in our view been significantly reduced.”
In the meantime, to minimize losses, BioExx is scaling back operations at Saskatoon to two days a week, which was sufficient to demonstrate the efficacy of the process to potential partners, added Schnarr.
Food manufacturers are excited about canola protein
According toBioExx vp, product and business development, Samah Garringer, several major food manufacturers areexperimenting with samples of BioExx’s canola proteins, while a tie up with Century Foods International to develop a canola-protein-based sports nutrition range is also progressing well.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA last month, Garringer said the fact that Canadian rival Burcon had spent years seeking a partner to manufacture its canola proteins was not proof BioExx would struggle to find a partner.
“Burcon is a technology company, whereas we already make a commercially available product. We have a proven, solvent-free extraction process that is scalable.”
Flavor, odor and functionality
BioExx’s hexane-free low-temperature extraction process means it can avoid the denaturing process that usually kicks in when proteins are exposed to high temperatures, which makes it harder to separate them from the meal and can reduce their solubility and functionality, claims BioExx.
BioExx also says it has been able to improve the flavor and odor of canola proteins and decrease the ‘anti-nutrients’ that had historically hindered its use as a food grade material.