5 July 2023

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FabaFood: innovation in Faba bean for sustainable plant based protein production

In 2023 KeyGene, Agrifirm, Ebro Ingredients, ME-AT, and Upfield joined forces to start FabaFood, a project that aims to substantially contribute to making our food system more sustainable. The project is part of the ERDF 2021-2027 East Netherlands program and is an outcome of the Bean Deal.

Our food production system is on its way to sustainability. The transition from the (over)consumption of animal protein to a more balanced consumption with increased quantities of locally produced plant proteins is going to be a major contributor.

Worldwide, soybean is the most important protein crop, which is grown in (sub) tropical regions. In contrast to soy, Faba bean is very suitable for cultivation in the Dutch climate. Current Faba bean varieties have been selected for use as livestock feed. The beans of current varieties require a great deal of processing to improve the quality, taste, color, and texture to a level that makes the protein attractive for human consumption. That is a serious constraint for the development of a large production area of Faba beans meant for human consumption.

The FABAFOOD project is developing modern food-grade Faba bean varieties. The project contributes to a sustainable and fair business case for all parties in the Faba bean value chain, from farm to fork. KeyGene, Agrifirm, Ebro Ingredients, ME-AT, and Upfield jointly carry out this project.


The objectives of the project are:

  1. Breeding a new food-grade Faba bean variety using innovative speed breeding technology (KeyGene).
  2. Agronomic research and testing of the new field beans (Agrifirm).
  3. Development of protein extraction methods that match the new properties of the food-grade field bean (Ebro Ingredients).
  4. Development of methods to process the extracted proteins into plant-based products for human consumption (ME-AT and Upfield).

The results of FabaFood is a new food-grade field bean variety, new protein extraction methods and prototypes of field bean-based meat and dairy substitutes that are superior in taste, color, texture and price.

KeyGene’s contribution to FabaFood

KeyGene’s role is to reveal and understand the genetic variation that is available in a collection of Faba bean material, to induce desired variation in eight important traits for food grade Faba bean varieties and to enhance breeding efficiency in Faba bean. KeyGene will develop one or more Faba bean varieties harboring several of the induced desired traits. The FabaFood project will benefit from KeyGene’s capabilities in fields like DNA Technology, and technology for the induction of new genetic variation.

ERDF 2021-2027 East Netherlands

The ERDF 2021-2027 East Netherlands program strengthens the innovative power in the East Netherlands region and, thus, the earning capacity of the East Netherlands business community. In addition, it contributes to solutions in the energy transition.

The program is co-financed by the European Union.