Wide Open Agriculture (ASX:WOA) is for real about getting into plant-based foods and this morning gained as much as 75 per cent after taking a major step towards its ambitions.

The stock listed in 2018 specialising in meat produced through regenerative farming — sold under a brand called ‘Dirty Clean Food’.

But Wide Open had been hinting for several months it wanted to expand into the plant-based foods market. It said in February it wanted to launch a “plant-based beverage in the oat milk category” before June.

The company has now signed an agreement with Curtin University to develop a plant-based lupin protein technology.

Lupin is a high protein vegetable that is a key ingredient of plant-based meat as well as dairy and egg products.

In the event of commercialisation, the deal includes an exclusive global licence over the technology.


An opportunity within an opportunity

Plant-based foods, including but not limited to plant-based meat, has been tipped as a fast growing market in the 2020s. Wide Open estimates the global market will reach $US40.6bn ($63.2bn) by 2025.

In Australia, the company expects the market will be worth $3bn within a decade, with climate change and animal welfare concerns the catalysts.

Production problems at meat factories due to COVID-19 are also credited as catalysts.

But Wide Open also thinks lupin is an opportunity in itself. Although humans only consume 4 per cent of the world’s supply, 60 per cent comes from Western Australia and is worth $200m annually.

Currently stock feed is lupin’s major use. But Wide Open boss Dr Ben Cole thinks if the plant-based food market grows, so will the opportunity for lupin.

“Curtin’s technology represents an opportunity to produce a plant-based protein that could elevate lupin into a rapidly growing sector of the good market,” Dr Cole said.

He called his plans for lupins and oats as well as existing livestock products a “trilogy of regenerative products”.

While he clarified the former two were a higher commercial focus for now, this new opportunity could be a money maker in the future.