Lupins are a small part of Gary Drew’s mixed operation at “Northwood” Brocklesby, grown as a break crop in a rotation with wheat and canola.
He plants about 200 hectares a year, half of that is the naturally sweet but low GI albus variety.
It can attract good money in the human consumption market overseas, although it is a fluctuating market.
“Every now and then there’s been a huge premium in human consumption, as there is a moment,” he said.
Lupins have been eaten for centuries in parts of Europe, the Middle East and South America but have never taken off as a food source in Australia, despite decades of work in Western Australia, the largest growing state.
“They’re worth $700 a tonne, it’s just crazy. Heaps will go in next year, if they can find the seed, and there’ll be an export oversupply for human consumption and the price will reflect that.”
A few years ago Mr Drew – dubbed the “ideas man” and “real innovator” by his siblings – decided to act on his desire to take lupins from a stock food and soil booster to the pantries and kitchens of Australia.
“Studies have been done for quite a long period of time about health benefits of it but still we just haven’t been able to get traction as a food, and that’s frustrated me over a period of time and I thought there’s no reason why we can’t have a crack at it,” Mr Drew said.
In 2016 he and his wife Heather set up Lupins For Life and built their own research and development facility and dedicated gluten-free mill at Jindera.
Gary’s brother Roger joined the company as managing director, after 20 years working in the not-for-profit sector, and their sister Chris Johnston left a career in Melbourne to become a director and business operations manager.
“What we’ve been doing for the last couple of years has been basically all research and development,” Gary Drew said. “It’s been knowing what we can do and at what pace we can do it … we’ve been able to utilise albus lupin for everything from just a sprout to flour.
“At every turn we find another way in which it can be used.”
The company produces plain, wholemeal and a semolina-style flour, kibble and this week launched a high protein lupin flake.
“We’ve been able to break the seed down into any size, it can be used as a replacement for any protein,” he said.