Wide Open Agriculture plans to build an oat milk manufacturing facility to accelerate the Australian firm’s entry into the plant-based food market.

The publicly-listed owner of the Dirty Clean Food (DCF) brand said it is in the process of raising AUD20m (US$14m) from “institutional and sophisticated investors” via a share placement to fund the project. The DCF brand traditionally encompasses beef, lamb and poultry sourced from farmers employing regenerative agriculture techniques, along with “pantry staples” sold into the retail and foodservice channels in Australia and South-east Asia, and also online through the firm’s own platform.

As part of its push into plant-based food, drink and alternative-protein options, Wide Open Agriculture (WOA) has launched what it claims is the “world’s first regenerative grown, carbon-neutral oat milk” – OatUp under the DCF brand. The new plant in Western Australia will support scaling up production of the lupin legume to add to its oat variant.

“The company will advance the scope and capability of its pilot-scale functional lupin protein facility to supply the production of Dirty Clean Food’s high-protein oat milk and to supply food and ingredient companies with samples to progress from R&D towards potential commercialisation,” WOA said in a statement.

“The facility will be the first oat milk manufacturing plant in Western Australia and will aim to produce the world’s lowest carbon emissions per litre of oat milk. The facility will produce oat milk and other plant-based milks under Dirty Clean Food’s brand and provide contract manufacturing services to private-label customers.”

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The plant is expected to begin production in the first quarter of fiscal 2023. In the 2021 financial year ended on 30 June, WOA generated revenues of AUD4.3m versus AUD1.4m in the previous 12 months. It delivered a loss of AUD7.5m, compared to a AUD1.8m loss.

WOA said its plant-based ambitions centre on regeneratively grown oats and lupins and has distribution agreements for OatUp with local retailer Woolworths and unnamed stores in Singapore. The company said it sees potential for the “lupin protein to be incorporated into Dirty Clean Food’s high-protein oat-milk prototypes”.

Ben Cole, WOA’s managing director, said: “Over the last seven years, we have positioned Wide Open Agriculture to grow rapidly alongside global consumer’s demands for healthy, nutritious food and drinks that regenerate the planet.

“As we increase our plant-based offerings, we know this segment is well-aligned with our regenerative purpose and represents one of the fastest-growing and most attractive markets in the food industry. This capital raise will allow us to rapidly advance our oat- milk and functional-protein business lines and further grow the Dirty Clean Food brand across Australia and South-east Asia.”

Dirty Clean Food’s CEO Jay Albany added: “We are now extending our reach nationally and into Asia. As we progress towards 2022, we are excited to realise our commitment to create an advanced green manufacturing oat-milk facility, the first in Western Australia.”

WOA is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

The company revealed today (6 December) it has won a retail and foodservice distribution agreement for OatUp in the Middle East with MKMI General Trading. The brand will be sold in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

In Asia, WOA is targeting Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan to add to its existing presence in Singapore, while it also plans product development in plant-based meat and snacks.