A Canadian company, which claims to have a technological breakthrough in plant proteins, has set up shop in Lethbridge. PIP International hosted a grand opening event for its new yellow pea wet fractionation pilot facility and commercial testing centre on May 30.
The Alberta government, in partnership with its federal counterpart, awared $1 million to the company through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to support engineering and the purchase of processing equipment for the facility, which was previously a mid-sized craft brewery (Coulee Brew). It has been converted into a fully commercialized pea processing and testing centre. CEO and founder of PIP, Christine Lewington said the company has purchased land and started construction on a larger facility also, but held off doing a large unveiling event.
“I felt like we needed to have something that people could come and touch and feel and actually see the progress,” she said. “I figured a launch event at this milestone, further down the road, showed that we mean business. We got $20 million, we are spending that money here.”
She said work on the larger facility has slowed down, as this one will fulfill needs of early clients who are building a product portfolio using the pea protein.
The pilot facility is the first step in testing PIP’s new extraction technology that it says will significantly improve the quality, purity and environmental impact of the protein isolates before scaling up production.
Lewington said taste is an important part of the project.The technology has cracked the code on pea protein’s poor taste, colour, texture and compromised performance, according to a PIP news release. It said it can shift consumers’ enjoyment of plant-based foods.
“Having such a large food corridor here in southern Alberta, it’s that diversification that makes us strong and, so having a plant like this and with the expansions in the future, what that really speaks to me is jobs — high paying jobs — which is fantastic for our region,” said Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen.
Lewington said the pilot plant will create 17-25 full time jobs and the larger facility will provide up to 100. She said much of the process is automated, so they will be high-paying positions.
Hyggen said the facility will attract international attention and bring people to Lethbridge and could allow some post-secondary grads to find work in the community.