Food & Beverage

May 1, 2017

From Waste to Gourmet

Alex Villeneuve, only 21 years old and near his graduation as master beer brewer on the Olds College, realizing the amount of waste (what's left of barley after the fermentation required for beer brewing) whose only faith was the garbage bin, thought he could to act on it.

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And, as fast as possible, given that after fermentation, not only it was rendered as useless, but also quickly develops a rather nasty smell.

As a permaculture enthusiast he thought that he could arrange an effective solution for such a waste, given that every liter of beer results on a fermented barley waste of 150 grams. In total, beer only absorbs 15 percent of the brewed cereals, the remaining 85 percent gets thrown on the bin.

His experiment, which started on his college dorm room, has since moved to a warehouse and is bound to grow even more, supplying the groceries and restaurants of Alberta, Canada.

Recycling the barley waste, pressing it on a way it resembles a tree log, he found the natural habitat of the mushroom varieties he grows: oyster ((Pleurotus Ostreatus) and lion's mane (Hericium Erinaceus).

He, first pasteurizes the waste to get rid of all bacteria, then injects it with the fungus that gives birth to its high quality mushrooms. As a bonus, his system not only creates gourmet mushrooms which, in dry conditions, are being sold at over 100€ a kilo, but the fungus also alters the composition of the waste giving it new life, turning it into ration with a high protein value that can feed cattle with zero waste.

Alex Villeneuve managed to transform a product that so far was considered useless on a product with two different uses!

His innovation already earned him the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures Venture Prize for students, a value of 20,000 dollars, which he used to invest in equipment that allows him to control and regulate the temperature, moist, air circulation, light and the water needed to increase the productivity and quality of his mushrooms, as well as to improve the drying process; what allowed him to start his own company, Ceres Solutions, an homage to the Roman goddess of agriculture.

About to reach his graduation as master brewer, Villeneuve will soon also complete his studies to become a chef, although he has no plans to open his own brewery or restaurant.

So far all the breweries on Alberta, Canada, eight in total, made it clear they wish to associate with his company to run off the waste they produce daily, what will force him once more to expand his facilities and production.

Since we are dealing with an innovative process to use industrial byproducts that, so far, has not been developed by any other company worldwide, but will surely contribute to transform the beer production industry as a whole, be it industrial or artisanal, rendering it more ecologic and able to reduce the food scarcity on the distant future, given that besides producing gourmet mushrooms the waste can also be used a third time as livestock ration.

Being on its first steps and having already gained the interest of both the restaurant and gourmet products market, besides the beer brewing industry, this Canadian startup is bounded to make a name for itself thanks to its pioneerism and the entrepreneurship of its owner that had already proved himself as a brewer (inventing a ginger and rosemary beer that won him the first prize at the Edmonton Winter Drink Festival) and as a businessman (using his weekends during his chef apprentice degree to create pop up restaurants that had a great success).

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