The by-product of one iconic Scottish product will help to feed and grow another, thanks to a new spin-out company from Heriot-Watt University.
Horizon Proteins has developed a method of using pot ale, or the spent liquid residue left over from the whisky making process, to produce sustainable protein for fish food for salmon farming.
Barley proteins are particularly well suited for Atlantic Salmon but growing barley purely to feed salmon would be very expensive and fish cannot digest the whole grain. Malted barley is used to produce malt whisky and our process allows us to utilise the leftover protein
It has been awarded funding of up to £575,000 from Scottish Enterprise under its new High-Growth Spinout Programme, with the aim of the company developing to a £5m turnover within five years.
As a legal requirement, the production of Malt Whisky in Scotland requires only three raw materials: Water, Yeast and Barley. Pot Ale is a liquid substance that contains typically 5% solids and at least 40% protein on a dry matter basis.
The Horizon Proteins team has developed a process to recover this protein for use in salmon feed. The process has unique advantages such as low cost, mild processing conditions and low energy requirements. The technology will also provide the whisky sector with an expanding added-value outlet for pot ale.
A sustainable protein
One of Horizon Proteins' founders Dr Nik Willoughby said, "Barley proteins are particularly well suited for Atlantic Salmon but growing barley purely to feed salmon would be very expensive and fish cannot digest the whole grain. Malted barley is used to produce malt whisky and our process allows us to utilise the leftover protein."
"Our goal is to replace traditional proteins used in salmon feeding such as fish meal and soya bean meal with locally sourced, readily available, sustainable protein which we believe will also be competitively priced and altogether a very attractive option for Scottish salmon farmers."
Eleanor Mitchell, Director of Commercialisation at Scottish Enterprise, said, "The Horizons Protein project is the first to gain funding under the High-Growth Spinout Programme, Scottish Enterprise's new approach to supporting the commercialisation of innovative technologies emerging from Scotland's universities, research institutes and NHS Boards.
"The new approach replaces our Proof of Concept Programme, putting an even greater emphasis on engaging earlier with international customers and investors in order to support the creation of new high-growth companies with the potential to scale globally. We are very excited to be supporting a project with the potential to not only create high value jobs in Scotland but to also provide such significant value-add to the iconic Scottish Food & Drink industries, Salmon and Whisky."