Jerry Lorenzen studied agriculture business and plant genetics at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, and had an internship with Asgrow. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness, he seemed destined for a career in conventional agriculture.
Then he began thinking about the future of agriculture and how it could feed the world’s increasing population. He decided 1985 was the time to focus on sustainable plant protein sources for human food. Pulses, which include peas, chickpeas, beans and lentils, are examples as they enrich the soil and have a low carbon footprint, according to the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, Moscow, Idaho. It takes 43 gallons of water to produce 1 lb of pulses, which compares to 800 gallons or more to produce 1 lb of meat.
Jerry Lorenzen told his wife, Renee, about the change of plans. Their daughter, Nicole, was pre-school age, and Tyler was born in 1985.
“I was probably young enough not to know any better and not know all of the obstacles that we would face,” Jerry Lorenzen said.
The start-up company “idea” originally was called “The World Food System,” he said. Jerry Lorenzen initially worked with farmers in Iowa and focused on organic crops.
In the company’s early years, he took Nicole, then about 7, and Tyler, about 5, to business meetings, dressing them up in business clothes. If the children stayed quiet during the meetings, he bought them ice cream afterwards. Nicole and Tyler in pre-teen and teenage years were active in cross-breeding corn and soy.
“It was just what I knew to be normal, but looking back, it was probably a different upbringing for sure,” Tyler Lorenzen said.
The family business added a manufacturing facility in Oskaloosa in 1999, the same year it became known as World Food Processing.
Peas became an important crop and a source for ingredients.
“Peas are as good for you as they are for the soil,” Tyler Lorenzen said.
Growing peas puts nitrogen back into the soil and works well as a cover crop. The company now has nearly two decades of experience working with peas.
“We produce peas that are rounder, that are lighter, that are higher in protein, that have a better flavor profile,” Jerry Lorenzen said. “Then with our ingredient processing methods, we have worked for decades on how do we reduce the off-notes, how do we make it a bland flavor, how do we make it so you can put the protein into a ready-to-drink beverage, how do you make a different protein that you could put into a bread? It’s really scientific in the sense of designing it for specific purposes.”
The company built another manufacturing facility in Randolph, Minn., in 2008, purchased a milling facility in Oskaloosa in 2009 and acquired a wet milling plant in 2011, turning it into a pea protein plant.