Home » Innovators invited to pitch uses for KY bourbon industry’s surplus stillage

Innovators invited to pitch uses for KY bourbon industry’s surplus stillage

FRANKFORT, Ky. — With the number of Kentucky distillers increasing 250% in the past decade, the need to address the industry’s spent-grain byproduct known as stillage has grown as well.

Now, innovators and entrepreneurs can submit creative ideas, technologies, and solutions for expanded uses of distilling byproducts. The top submitted ideas will enter a reverse pitch competition on Oct. 25 during the 25th Distillers Grains Symposium in Louisville to an audience of distillers and industry stakeholders.

Individuals are invited to submit proposals by Aug. 30, when five winners will be selected to present their ideas at the reverse pitch competition during the Distillers Grains Symposium. Leading up to the symposium, presenters will work with entrepreneurs and pitch experts to refine their pitches. Among other prizes, the pitch competition winner will get the opportunity to work alongside distilleries and stakeholders across the state to implement their ideas for surplus stillage usage.

For every gallon of bourbon produced, approximately 10 gallons of stillage remains, with an estimated 96 million gallons of stillage produced statewide annually. Currently, demand for stillage – including traditional low-tech uses – is declining as the supply of stillage continues to increase.

Whole stillage, though mostly water, is acidic and has a high biological oxygen demand. Its useful life ranges from one to two days for wet – or thin – stillage, to extended shelf life for dried distillers grains. Current uses of stillage include animal feed and supplements.

Ideally, pitches should meet the following criteria:

  • Prioritize sustainability and environmental impact;
  • Demonstrate an economic value to the distillery and the end-user of the stillage;
  • Identify the size of the distillery the solution is targeting;
  • Address the location and space requirements of the solution, if any equipment or process footprint is required;
  • Estimate product development costs, if applicable;
  • Estimate the initial investment, ongoing costs, and profits, if applicable, of the solution to the parties involved;
  • Highlight the financial, sustainable, and environmental benefits of the solution;
  • Explain if/what testing or pilot demonstration has taken place and whether it was successful;
  • Highlight the scalability of the solution; and
  • Project the solution’s implementation/start-up time.

The reverse pitch competition will be hosted through a partnership between the Distillers Grains Technology Council, the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, Incubation Innovated, the EEC and KY Innovation, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, with support and guidance from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

To learn more about stillage, or to submit a proposal for the reverse pitch competition, visit BourbonReversePitch.com.

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