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Fava Beans: Growing Potential in the Plant-Based Market

Ali Morikawa
December 11, 2021

With the growing demand for plant-based food products, farmers now have increasing opportunity to expand into sustainable and eco-friendly markets. The fava bean market was estimated at 3.1 billion USD in 2018 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.8%, reaching 4.3 billion USD by 2024.1

The reason for the growth in the fava bean industry can be traced to an increase in the consumer awareness of its potential health benefits and technical advances in its production as a protein isolate for the food and drink markets.2,3-4

Due to a growing number of entrants and manufacturers in the fava bean protein industry, the market landscape is expected to become increasingly competitive as manufacturers scale production measures and innovation. 5

©Miyoko’s Creamery

Miyoko Schinner, a plant-based entrepreneur who started Miyoko’s Creamery sees the potential for the growth of the agriculture production of fava beans as the current demand is difficult to maintain:

“We use fava bean protein in a couple of our SKUs due to its fairly neutral flavor profile. Unfortunately, many other companies have the same idea, and the supply seems to be constantly challenged. According to the supplier, demand is spiking rapidly and they struggle to keep up.”

When you learn more about the fava bean, there’s no surprise it has a promising future. As Schinner further states:

“Fava beans are prolific and easy to grow. They could become a favorite bean among Americans. They are highly versatile; you can cook them when young in the pod and eat the whole thing, allow them to get bigger and harvest the beans themselves when green and soft, or allow them to dry out and store for later.”

Environmentally Efficient

The fava bean is a highly versatile annual plant that thrives in cool temperatures, thus it is planted during the spring in the northern hemisphere and can be cultivated across a wide geographical area, in the Boreal zone of Europe, Asia and North America (even thriving during shorter growing seasons of 100 days or less).2, 12-13

Fava beans add nitrogen to the soil and thus are often grown as winter cover crops.5 They are particularly helpful to grow where there used to be intensive production of feed crops because their naturally occurring nitrogen can alleviate soil degradation that is common with monoculture systems.2,6

When they are used as a cover crop, the effect of yield increases in crops that follow them.7-10 In some instances, biomass production of fava bean can be higher than other legumes, with production of 20 – 40 tons of biomass per acre.7,11

Dr. Jingo Hu, research geneticist at USDA, elaborates on the productivity of the fava bean crop, “According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the annual harvested fava bean acreage averaged 2.5 million hectares from 2005 to 2010 with an annual production of approximately 4.2 million tonnes. ”14

As nutritionally dense as it is environmentally sound…

The nutritional importance of fava bean is noteworthy, with 250g of protein/kg seed15, offering 320kcal/100g of dry weight. 2,16 The legume can also provide therapeutic potential, as it contains L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA), the precursor to the neurotransmitter catecholamine and a medicine used to treat Parkinson’s disease17.

As technology and innovative methods for harvesting and marketing plant-based proteins improves, the future for the fava bean as a major player in the plant-based market becomes increasingly promising. With the threat of climate change facing our ecosystem every day, finding food products that can benefit the soil and reduce carbon emissions provides farmers opportunities to pave the way for a more financially and environmentally sustainable future.

The USDA Sponsors Fava Bean Research

Via the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the USDA granted $427,414 to the California Department of Agriculture to research fava bean cultivation.

Fava bean is a component of most cover crop mixes because of its substantial biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) potential. As part of a 2018 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) award, the U.S. Department of Agriculture fava bean germplasm was screened for BNF, seed size, biomass, height, harvest index, and resistance to lodging, black aphid, and chocolate spot disease. This project will grow the selected accessions with common California cover crop mixes at California locations that vary in rainfall and soil type. The research will,

1) identify the BNF and nitrogen benefits of the new fava bean genotypes compared to current varieties and to other legume cover crops,
2) identify small-seeded fava bean genotypes that perform well in mixes with other species to reduce the seeding cost of cover cropping,
3) address the interaction of the new fava bean genotypes, which vary in height and biomass, with other species, and 4) fill the knowledge gap about plant traits that contribute to cover crop benefits.


  1. Market Data Forecast. (2020, February). Fava Beans Market New Trends: Competitive Analysis: North America: Europe: MEA: LATAM. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from
  2. Multari, S., Stewart, D., & Russell, W. (2015, June 23). Potential of Fava Bean as Future Protein Supply to Partially Replace Meat Intake in the Human Diet. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from
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  10. Smither-Kopperl, M. 2019. Plant Guide for fava bean (Vicia faba). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Lockeford Plant Materials Center. Lockeford, CA 95237.
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  17. Ramya KB, Thaakur S. 2007. Herbs containing L- DOPA: an update. AncSci Life 27(1):50–55.
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