LOUISVILLE, Ky. — BioProducts of Louisville was selected by the judges as the first-prize winner. SoMax Circular Solutions of Philadelphia was chosen as runner-up and voted crowd favorite.
BioProducts’ concept includes a process that yields xylose, a low-calorie sweetener, and activated carbon, which has applications for battery cells. The first-prize winner received a spot to present at the James B. Beam Institute of Kentucky’s conference and a collection of bourbon donated by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.
With the number of Kentucky distillers increasing 250% over the past decade, the need to address the industry’s spent-grain byproduct has grown. For every gallon of bourbon produced, approximately 10 gallons of stillage remains.
Currently, the demand for stillage – including traditional low-tech uses – is declining as the supply of stillage increases. The call went out to innovators over the summer to submit ideas for stillages solutions that prioritized sustainability and environmental impact; demonstrated an economic value to the distillery and the end-user of the stillage; and highlighted the scalability of the solution among others.
The pitch competition, the first of its kind related to addressing the stillage issue, was held at the 25th Distillers Grains Symposium at the Downtown Louisville Marriott for an audience of distillers and industry stakeholders. The event was hosted through a partnership between the Distillers Grains Technology Council, the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, Innovation Incubated, the Energy and Environment Cabinet, and KY Innovation, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, with support and guidance from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.
BioProducts’ presentation was delivered by company founder and CEO Dr. Jagannadh Satyavolu and Cliff Speedy of C&I Engineering, which is a partner on the project. The company has plans to build units capable of handling 75,000 gallons of stillage a day and converting it into the diabetic-friendly sugar substitute, activated carbon and biocoal, and a protein that can be used in animal feed.
The other presenters were:
Dan Spracklin with SoMax Circular SolutionsPennsylvania-based SoMax Circular Solutions uses hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) to recover valuable byproducts from spent grains. The process converts the stillage into solid carbon-neutral biofuels, clean water, and nutrients. Thermal energy and clean water can be used by the distillery, reducing expenses and carbon footprint.
Eric Jens and Steve Wesley with Local SolsChicago-based Local Sols upcycles spent grains into branded premium pet and plant foods using a combination of black soldier fly larvae and red wigglers to rapidly transform spent grains into raw protein. This model is scalable and not only allows the distillers to brand a sustainable bottle, but also provides pet food branding sourced with sustainable protein, reducing the amount of land, water, and greenhouse gases produced by traditional pet food manufacturing.
Brandon Corace and Don Corace with Meridian BiotechTexas-based Meridian Biotech is an industrial biotech company with experience in the ethanol/alcohol industry. Meridian Biotech pitched a plan to process excess stillage into alternative by-products used in aquaculture fishmeal and pet food industries.
George Bower with Biogas Technology GroupLexington-based Biogas Technology Group proposed the development of a 500,000 ton/year centralized facility in Marion County to process and convert raw stillage into recoverable products. The facility operates patented technology with zero process emissions and converts the stillage to renewable natural gas, CO2 and other commercial products. The system is a low energy input alternative to traditional dry-houses.
John Wright with Continental Refining Co.Somerset-based Continental Refining Co. LLC pitched a method of processing distillers’ grains to extract vegetable oil and animal feed byproducts. Their model included an off-site location for distillers to deliver their wet stillage, thus creating no additional investment for the distillery.
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