Equinom uses a proprietary software-based breeding programme to breed seeds with improved traits through non-GMO techniques.
The pea variety that Roquette will scale up has 50% more protein than commercially available alternatives.
As part of the collaboration, Roquette and Equinom’s current shareholder, private equity company Fortissimo Capital, will jointly invest $4m into the seed tech company to further develop products for the food and animal feed sectors.
Equinom is also in the process of developing new varieties of mungbean, fava and lentils, and has already brought to market a split-proof sesame seed variety that allows for automatic, rather than manual, harvesting.
'Responsible and sustainable'
Pascal Leroy, vice president of Roquette’s pea and new protein business, said the investment and partnership would enable Roquette to position itself as “a pioneer” in the plant protein value chain by producing “responsible and sustainable” high-protein peas.
The multi-year deal, which is Roquette’s first strategic investment in Israel, comes just weeks after it announced its acquisition of Texpall’s extrusion unit in the Netherlands for an undisclosed sum.
The new varieties are still at the R&D stage but the first prototypes have been developed and Leroy told FoodNavigator companies should be able to buy the ingredient “in the near future”.
The companies did not disclose where the pea varieties would initially be grown but Equinom started several trials with Canadian producers last year.
'A vote of confidence in our technology'
CEO of the food tech firm Gil Shalev previously told FoodNavigator the high protein varieties have a "similar" crop yield to standard varieties.
“The idea was not just to increase the protein but to keep yield as it is today and make it a commercial crop. If a Canadian or French farmer grows pea with an average yield of three tonnes per hectare, it would be nice to have a higher protein content but that shouldn’t be at the expense of yield,” he said.
On the Roquette deal, Shalev said it was “a major milestone” for the company.
“The investment in our company is a vote of confidence in our technology and its ability to transform the plant-protein market,” he added.
Fortissimo Capital, whose portfolio of agri tech and food tech companies includes SodaStream, Origene Seeds, Solynta and Afimilk, invested $4 million in Equinom last year.
Equinom already has multi-year contracts in place with hummus manufacturer Sabra Dipping Company, a joint venture of PepsiCo and the Strauss Group.