Pea pasta

AGT Foods asks producers to raises peas with as high a level of protein as possible, to increase nutrition in foods. A new pea pasta line is on the way.

MINOT, N.D. – AGT Foods continues to expand at its factory in Minot, and a new endeavor is on the horizon.

“For several years, AGT Foods has produced gluten-free pasta, and we’re extremely excited about a new pulse pasta we are going to launch in about 60 days in Minot,” said Eric Bartsch, general manager of AGT Foods.

AGT Foods is a global leader in the pulse and grain food world with 43 plants worldwide, and its plant in Turkey has a large durum pasta line.

Headquartered in Saskatchewan, Canada, the company formed in 2003 as United Pulse Trading. United Pulse, later named AGT Foods, began cleaning, color sorting, sizing, processing and packaging dry pulse products and shipping them out.

“We started with red lentils and grew from there,” Bartsch said.

In North Dakota, AGT Foods opened its Williston plant in 2007, and it continues to be a pea processing company, with an emphasis on high protein peas. It cleans, color sorts, sizes and packages pulses, mostly peas.

In 2013, AGT took the next step and expanded into Minot, which the company built especially to mill pulses into flour.

“We built the factory to produce pulse-based flours from chickpeas, peas, lentils and fava beans,” Bartsch said. “To make pulse flours, we use special milling technologies and mill it down to a fine texture.”

To make pulse flour, AGT takes cleans and splits peas or other pulse commodities, and mills the pulse using different techniques until they reach the consistency of a fine flour.

Crews at Minot are specially trained to mill the pulses into flour.

AGT also does pulse fractionation where proteins, starches, and fibers are separated out.

Yellow pea protein can be put into just about any food imaginable.

Customers buy pulse flour and the other pulse ingredients for use in making their own foods, such as pea protein to add to snack foods or pet foods for higher nutrition.

“We’re shipping around 130,000 tons of pulse-based ingredients from the Minot factory to destinations all around the world,” he said.

But the next step is its own pulse pasta.

The pea pasta took several years to be fully developed in Minot.

“When the pea pasta comes to the market, it will be one of the best veggie pulse-based pastas around,” Bartsch said.

The gluten-free pea pasta will be packaged as a dry product and named ‘Viggi Pasta.’

It is neutral in taste, and will be in the shape of spaghetti noodles.

“We wanted it to have similar texture to spaghetti. In our eyes, we’ve accomplished that task,” he said. “We’ve developed some unique technologies to get to this point.”

AGT Foods representatives have been showing samples of its pea pasta to people and companies around the world.

“The interest is very high, and we’re excited about the feedback we’ve gotten,” Bartsch said. He added they want to have it in local stores in North Dakota, so North Dakota customers can try it out.

As a company, AGT Foods works with thousands of producers around the country.

In the region, Bartsch said he encourages producers to try to increase the protein as much as possible on their peas, chickpeas, lentils and fava beans.

“We pay a premium for protein, and right now, we’re paying a premium for high protein as much as 20-21 percent,” he said.

A lot of plant breeders are working on new varieties to push that protein to 24-26 percent.

“Pulses for years were bred for appearance, such as brighter color, but today that is changing,” he said. “There is more interest in the protein levels, and the nutritional levels of the pulses.”