New duckweed protein firm signs development deal

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Iain Serjeant
©Getty Images - Iain Serjeant

Related tags Protein plant based

Canadian company Pontus Protein has announced milestones on its path to commercialize a water lentil-derived ingredient as well as the ‘vertical aquaponics’ platform in which it will be grown.

The development stage company, which is based in Surrey, BC, announced last week that it is exploring a potential contract manufacturing agreement with Blue Ocean Tea Company. 

As part of the agreement, Blue Ocean’s CEO Mark Arathoon will take the role as head of product development at Pontus.  The two companies had signed a letter of intent (LOI) in March.

‘Reinventing agriculture’

Pontus claims to be ‘reinventing agriculture’ with a proprietary production method it is calling Closed Environment Vertical Aquaponic System (CEVAS).  Pontus, which was founded in late 2018, plans to use a full scale version of the method to grow its water lentils raw material.

 The company says the production method uses 95% less water than traditional agriculture and no pesticides or chemicals.  It advertises high tech features such as automated nutrient level monitoring and automated harvesting. The company claims that using its farming method the plants can double in volume every 24 hours.

Water lentils are any one of a number of aquatic flowering plants in the Lemnoideae​ group.  Another common name is duckweed. The simple plants, which have no obvious stems or leaves, float at or near the surface in lakes and ponds. These aggregations often have an algae-like appearance, but water lentils, while often very small, are in fact multi cellular organisms. The fossil record of these plants extends back about 100 million years.

Pontus is planning to market a high protein powder derived from the lentils.  According the agreement, Blue Ocean “will package sachets of Pontus Powder and produce added-value products to enable early access of Pontus into the market.”

“ I reached out to Pontus when I saw what a novel technology they had developed. When I tasted the product and saw the nutritional profile, I knew this was something I wanted to be part of. I am very pleased to be heading up Product Development and using my experience and networks to get the widest distribution for the product,”​ Arathoon said.

Three’s a crowd?

Pontus is a publicly traded entity. Its shares are traded on the TSX Venture Exchange, with a current price of 14 cents a share.

Pontus is not the first entrant to the water lentil ingredient game. Competitors Parabel and Hinoman made a splash as far back as 2015​ at the annual IFT show with their  water lentil ingredients.  Parabel seems to be a direct competitor with a protein ingredient it has branded as Lentein, while Hinoman concentrates on a duckweed species it calls Mankai, which it is selling as a whole food with a high protein and vitamin content.

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