Apparently beer can be for the fishes too. The MillerCoors Trenton Brewery in rural Butler County has partnered with the Colorado biotechnology company Nutrinsic Corp. to convert waste water from the beer-making process into fish and animal feed.
In a multi-million project, Nutrinsic has built an addition onto MillerCoors’ water reclamation facility, located on the brewery’s more than 1,000-acre campus along Wayne Madison Road. New equipment has been installed that captures waste water — consisting of water and waste beer along with spent barley and yeast — and transforms it into single-cell proteins, said Meagan Wairama, spokeswoman for the Denver-based company.
Production of the proteins has started for testing purposes, and the company founded in 2001 will be making tweaks until it’s ready for sale to customers such as farmers and feed suppliers, Wairama said.
“We work with food and beverage processors like MillerCoors to recover nutrients from their byproduct that would be otherwise wasted,” she said.
Nutrinsic’s process alters the water’s conditions to help microorganisms grow that produce protein, she explained. Then, the protein is harvested, concentrated, sterilized and dried. The final step is packaging it under the brand name ProFloc, an end product that can be substituted for other types of feed such as fish meal or used as a feed ingredient, she said.
The process also releases clean water, she said.
The newly built processing plant at the Trenton brewery (which is actually located outside Trenton in St. Clair Twp.) is Nutrinsic’s first U.S. plant to open. Another processing facility has been opened in China.
“Our vision as a company is to make a contribution to meet expanding protein needs,” Wairama said, adding that the effort is in light of global environmental concerns.
For MillerCoors, diverting waste water for reuse is another step in the brewery’s sustainability efforts, said Trenton Plant Manager and Vice President Denise Quinn.
Nutrinsic’s process will divert about 20,000 tons of waste water a year. Previously, those 20,000 tons were applied as fertilizer for farming, and the rest of the solids will continue to be used for that purpose.
The Water Reclamation Center treats 1.8 million gallons per day of process waste water, and returns the clean water to the environment, according to the beer company. Nutrinsic has taken ownership of the solids from this process and transformed the material into its ProFloc animal feed ingredient. Because Nutrinsic has enriched the solids into a valuable protein feed ingredient, MillerCoors no longer manages the process solids as a waste, Miller officials say.
MillerCoors was approached by Nutrinsic about the project, Quinn said.
“It was kind of like, you want to do what? Fish meal replacement, what?” she said. “And then we started talking a little bit more with them. (Studies showed) that it really is possible to look at our waste stream and take some of those solids and convert it into fish meal.”
Previously, in 2009, the maker of Miller High Life, Molson Golden and Keystone became a landfill-free brewery, meaning that 99.8 percent of trash and waste is recycled or somehow reused.
“We were the first MillerCoors facility to go landfill free,” Quinn said.
Also, MillerCoors has made strides to cut its water usage at the company’s eight major U.S. breweries including the Butler County site. The local brewery sits atop the natural Great Miami River Buried Valley Aquifer. Thanks to water-tracking meters and other efforts, the Trenton operation between 2011 and 2014 has reduced its water usage by 14.1 percent. In April, water usage dropped to 2.99 barrels of water per one barrel of beer, below the company-wide average.
“That would fall in world class numbers,” Quinn said.
“As an organization, it’s real important to us to protect the quality and the quantity,” she said. “Also we have breweries that are in water scarcity states.”
MillerCoors is a joint venture of SABMiller and Molson Coors. The Trenton brewery opened for operations in 1991. It produces 63 different beer brands and employs about 550 workers.
This year, the local brewery expects to produce 9.2 to 9.3 million barrels of beer, Quinn said.
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