Wide Open Agriculture continues global expansion with strong start to 2024

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By Colin Hay - 
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Backed by the recent signing of a new distribution deal that will take its unique Buntine Protein product into Asia, Wide Open Agriculture (ASX: WOA) is entering 2024 on a high note.

The recent signing of an initial agreement with Japanese trading house Nissei Kyoeki follows on from a string of agreements and activities in 2023 that have provided the company with a strong foothold in Europe.

In announcing the recent agreement, Wide Open chief executive officer Jay Albany highlighted the Tokyo-headquartered company’s global network, strong focus on product development and increasing interest in plant-based proteins.

Wide Open and Nissei have initially agreed to collaborate to develop the market for lupin-based proteins in Japan, with the Australian firm initially supplying its Japanese partner with Buntine Protein samples from its Kewdale facility in Western Australia for customer evaluation.

The company recently began selling Buntine Protein out of Kewdale with its first direct order of Prolupin’s isolate LP90 shipped during December.

Wide Open has also recently secured exclusive sales partners in major markets including the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

The company is now looking to grow its position in a soy protein market valued in excess of $10 billion in 2023, with pea protein soon expected to exceed $3b.

Mr Albany believes Wide Open’s technology is bringing a differentiation strategy that overcomes the issues with commodity proteins, which normally require the inclusion of other ingredients to achieve the necessary requirements for recipe development.

European expansion

The Japanese deal came hot on the heels of a major breakthrough in Wide Open’s European market expansion plans with the sale and delivery of its first order of lupin protein isolate.

The order was led by the company’s subsidiary WOA Germany and follows a design win in the non-dairy category, a key market for the early adoption of lupin protein.

WOA Germany has multiple design wins in the non-dairy category including cheeses, spreads and creamers.

Lupin protein deal

In early October, Wide Open entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of leading European lupin protein producer Prolupin GmbH and the sale also represents the successful integration of the Prolupin business into the company’s operations.

The purchase consideration included Prolupin’s advanced manufacturing facility, the patents to produce the Prolupin protein isolate, the “Luve” trademark, inventory of finished Prolupin protein products and a supply of raw materials.

The acquisition also provided Wide Open with an immediate operational footprint in Europe, with Prolupin’s facility to be modified to produce the company’s Buntine Protein.

The facility is expected to reach production of 1,000 tonnes per annum.

Mr Albany said Wide Open expects to see continued European growth in 2024 as the company’s design wins move from development into retail products.

Strong cash position

In releasing its quarterly results in December, Wide Open informed shareholders that its cash position at 31 December 2023 of approximately $4.2m means it is adequately funded to continue its current activities.

The company also noted that research and development payments in excess of $2.5m received during the December quarter represented costs involved with the development of the company’s novel plant-based protein.