“I have more gray hair in my beard – and less overall hair of any color – after a year like we’ve just had,” Wide Open Agriculture (ASX: WOA) CEO Jay Albany remarked, reflecting on the Company’s 2023—the year in which it was suspended from the ASX for six months.
Besides reeling under the impact of worsening market conditions, the farming company suffered snags on the investor relations front. In May last year, after failing to show evidence of its ambitious funding claims, Wide Open Agriculture was suspended from the ASX.
It focused on accelerating speed to market and reducing the capital requirements to commercialise Buntine Protein. However, Albany admitted that the Company made some missteps in how it communicated the shift in strategy. This frustrated investors and management. According to him, WOA’s intention was to share how it planned to bring Buntine Protein to market in a nimble, partner-based approach, which had the benefit of being capital light and fast to market.
He said, “While the communication strategy was executed poorly, this was the correct set of business decisions.”
Since the six-month shut down, the Company has made many changes to stage a comeback.
For one, last year, WOA entered the $10 billion soy protein market and anticipates the pea protein market to surpass $3 billion.
Secondly, its flagship product Buntine Protein is set to hit the commercial stage, marking a significant achievement for the team. With a robust plan in place, the Company aims to achieve substantial commercial volumes in 2024, with an eye on a potential fivefold expansion in the future.
The pivotal goal for 2023 was successfully transitioning the lupin-based protein program from pilot to commercial scale, coupled with the establishment of a robust demand pipeline.
In keeping with that, last October, WOA successfully acquired the manufacturing facility of Prolupin GmbH for $4.2 million. This acquisition is estimated to have saved WOA more than $20 million compared to constructing a similar facility. Beyond obtaining a purpose-built facility for lupin protein extraction, the Company also secured the expertise of an experienced German engineering and production team. Moreover, the acquisition came with a valuable complementary patent portfolio, encompassing proprietary methods for lupin protein extraction.
Finally, it signed a non-binding MOU with Saputo Dairy Australia, the Australian subsidiary of one of the largest dairies in the world.
Looking ahead, in 2024, the Company aims to enhance profitability by installing fiber drying equipment, optimising fixed cost utilisation. The focus is on creating a strong business by not just selling the protein isolate but also incorporating the dietary fiber co-product.
Albany commented, “There is no doubt in my mind that Buntine Protein® and our lupin-based products are globally competitive and highly differentiated in what is a multi-billion dollar global market that is undergoing a foundational shift. The opportunity for WOA to participate in this shift from soy protein to pea, fava – and lupin! – is now.”
WOA has initiated the sale of its first direct orders of Buntine Protein from Kewdale. Additionally, the first shipment of Prolupin’s isolate, LP90, was dispatched in December.
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