French oilseed producer Avril announced a partnership with Dow Chemical Co unit Dow AgroSciences on Wednesday to develop protein-rich rapeseed.
The deal will be based on non-genetically modified (GMO) seed technology developed by Dow AgroSciences in Canada, which boosts protein content by 20 percent, Avril's Deputy Director General Michel Boucly told reporters.
"Dow has developed a canola with the same level of oil but enriched with protein and they are launching it on the Canadian market in 2016. We are not pleased at all because they are our competitors so we negotiated (...) an exclusive license deal to develop this technology for French producers," he said.
Dow's canola, a type of rapeseed which is grown in the spring, will be adapted to be cultivated in the winter as virtually all other rapeseed in France. It will then be made available for seed makers. The new seeds will not be available until 2025.
Boucly noted the protein would be non-GMO as opposed to imported soybean. GMOs are controversial in Europe, notably in France.
Avril, which is owned by oilseed crop growers, declined to give financial details of the partnership, but said it would contribute to Dow's research through its financial arm Sofiproteol.
"The idea is that there be more protein from France and less imported," Avril Director General Jean-Philippe Puig said.
Avril produces biodiesel, vegetable oil, oleochemical solutions, animal feed and other food products such as eggs.
It sees the protein market as the one with the most potential with a deficit estimated at 58 million tonnes in 2030.
"By 2030, vegetable protein demand will be 15 percent higher than offer," Boucly said, pointing to people in emerging economies eating more meat as well as higher demand in developed countries.
Avril had sales of 6.1 billion euros ($6.8 bln) in 2015, down 5 percent from 2014 due mainly to a slump in crude oil prices which affected its biofuels activities, lower feed demand from a declining livestock sector and difficulties in passing on higher vegetable oil prices to supermarkets.
Dow is in the process of merging with chemical maker DuPont to form a chemical and seed producer.
The deal, announced in December, will face intense regulatory scrutiny, analysts said, especially over combining their agricultural businesses, which sell seeds and crop protection chemicals.