The startup Intact and the Axéréal cooperative found a low-carbon vegetable protein sector

The first production unit in the Center-Val de Loire of vegetable proteins from legumes, designating the legume family (peas, beans, etc.), should leave the earth in the second half of 2024.

The startup Intact, on the initiative of the project, thus acquired a 10-hectare plot of land within the Synergies Val de Loire business park, in Baule, a small town located 25 km southwest of Orléans. There, it will build a factory with an area of ​​approximately 7,000 m2 with capacity to process and transform around 30,000 tons of legumes annually at cruising speed.

Agro-food, collective catering, pharmacy and cosmetics…

This production of ingredients will be destined primarily to three industrial sectors. Intact will target key players in the food industry, such as Nestlé and HappyVore, which use pea protein in their recipes.

Biscuit factories and traditional bakeries are also preferred targets for producers, as well as collective catering.

Second, Intact plans to target the pharmaceutical and cosmetic sectors, sectors that are also well represented in Centre-Val de Loire. It will thus provide them with neutral alcohols, resulting from the fermentation of starch, present in legumes.

Co-founded in March 2022 by Alexis Duval, former chairman of the executive board of sugar cooperative giant Tereos, Fanny de Castelnau, formerly of Cointreau and St-Hubert, and Christopher Hervé, who also worked for Tereos, Intact joined forces in operation with a large agricultural cooperative, Axereal, which held 20% of its capital.

During the inauguration of the future production site, on January 16, its directors announced an investment of 50 million euros, without further details. The eventual creation of 60 jobs at the new plant was also recorded. Intact, which aims to earn 50 million euros by 2027, hopes to form the basis of a new agricultural sector in the Center-Val de Loire, dedicated to vegetable proteins.

This ambitious project is widely supported by the regional community. Thus, the economic development agency Dev’up highlighted several assets of the territory, namely the agricultural resources and the land available, to implement Intact’s decision to settle there.

Alliance with Axereal to develop legume cultivation

The alliance between the producer Intact and the cooperative group Axéréal responds to the problem of supplying raw materials. This cooperative is one of the main cereal cooperatives in France, bringing together around 14,000 farms in the Center-Val de Loire region.

Still, legumes represent only 5% of total crops today. To convince farmers to convert a significant portion of their land, Intact and its new partner are highlighting two key assets. Legumes, thanks to the nitrogen they contain, make it possible, on the one hand, to avoid the massive addition of synthetic fertilizers. In the end, in addition to the environmental benefit, an annual savings of between 15,000 and 30,000 euros, depending on the size of the farm.

Regenerative virtues and food sovereignty

On the other hand, the regenerative virtues of legumes vis-à-vis the soil are also measured in terms of food sovereignty.

Europe, and France in particular, imports around 50% of the nitrogen used in its agriculture from Russia and Ukraine. Its price has also gone up a lot due to the dispute that started in February 2022.

The context and the change in French eating habits should, in principle, serve as an accelerator for Intact’s ambitions.

Constantly growing consumption of vegetable proteins

The new entrant therefore aims at 20% of legume production, i.e. 65,000 hectares, in all cultivated areas in the Center-Val de Loire by 2025.

Unlike animal proteins, vegetable proteins, which in 2022 represented a third of total consumption, have been steadily increasing since 2010. The high inflation experienced for several months thus reduced the former by 8%.