SME Solutions Centre – Prioritisation of value-adding opportunities to upcycle brewing by-products
Brewers spent grain is a byproduct of making beer that primarily consists of malted semi-fermented barley grain. Often this stream is sent to landfill or occasionally used for low-value products including for compost, fuel for fire or animal feed. A century ago it was sometimes milled into a whole-grain type flour and used in baking. Over time this was dropped for more simple, less healthy plain white flour, and the production process was lost. Now with a better understanding of its excellent health benefits, societal need, consumer trends, environmental value and other positive attributes, it is time to bring it back.
The Australian brewing industry produces over 300,000 wet tonnes of brewers spent grain (or ~60,000 dry tonnes equivalent) and a significant amount of spent yeast each year. A value chain that can collect these byproducts consistently would reduce logistical headaches for brewers.
To date, generating commercially viable food products from the spent grain and yeast has been challenging for several reasons. High processing costs, low product yields, inadequate commercialisation knowledge and a lack of consumer interest have held progress back. However, overcoming this is now considered possible.
Our SME plan
Australia is a world leader in many things, including that we produce a lot of grain and we drink a lot of beer. Spent grain is under-utilised, usually sent to landfill or given away (sometimes sold) to farmers as a low-value livestock feed. The grains have lost their starchy sugars in the brewing process. Yet, this byproduct includes useful proteins, dietary fibre, nutraceuticals and biochemicals. By improving the processing of these extract products, brewers can create a profit line from the beneficial nutraceuticals and biochemical extracts. Grainstone Pty Ltd is working on the innovations required to realise this significant opportunity.
This project is reviewing processing technologies and product opportunities for the spent grain and spent yeast extracts. Next steps include identifying new processes for the cost-effective recovery of the most commercially promising, high-value components, including lab-scale trials. In ranking the options to value-add, a final techno-economic assessment will then be created based on the available feedstock tonnage and other criteria.
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