US agricultural technology company Terviva has partnered with global food giant Danone to develop new food products using pongamia oil and plant protein, Global AgInvesting reported on 24 May.

The agreement with Danone followed the California-based start-up’s raising of US$54M to market pongamia trees, an oilseed plant grown in parts of Asia, the report said.

Founded in 2010, Terviva produces pongamia trees with protein and oil-rich seeds similar to soyabeans.

Harvested for medicinal purposes for more than 1,000 years, the pongamia plant produced a seed related to lentils, pea and beans, with an oil similar to high-oleic acid vegetable oils, Global AgInvesting wrote.

However, the oil is unsuitable for human consumption as it is toxic and has a disagreeable taste and odour due to bitter flavonoid constituents.

By using natural processing methods, Terviva had removed the anti-nutritional elements to make the protein and vegetable oils derived from the pongamia suitable for food applications, Global AgInvesting said.

This process resulted in a buttery cooking oil and a highly soluble plant-based protein, which had the potential to be used as a replacement for soya, according to the report.

“Terviva’s pongamia-based food ingredients broaden access to healthy and environmentally sustainable foods that directly combat climate change,” Terviva co-founder and CEO Naveen Sikka said.

Terviva had worked with farmers to plant pongamia trees on idle former citrus land in Florida; on former sugarcane land in Hawaii; and in Australia and India on land that was often left fallow due to poor soil conditions or lack of water, the report said.

“Consumption of plant-based proteins and oils is growing rapidly, but the amount of arable land to grow these crops is increasingly limited,” Sikka was quoted as saying in a 2019 report.

Before the close of this quarter, the company was expecting to raise an additional US$24M in equity and debt capital to drive expansion, Global AgInvesting reported.