When brewers make beer, the good stuff doesn’t only go into the bottles. The spent barley or other grains, once drained of their flavor, still hold up to 30 percent protein and as much as 70 percent fiber. Some makes its way to animal feedlots; most is carted to a dump.
Researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have found a way to efficiently separate the protein and the fiber, harvesting the former as food and the latter as biofuel and an industrial feedstock.
While separating the fiber and protein has been possible previously, it wasn’t worth the trouble: the mash from the brewery had to be dried, consuming energy as well as time. Virginia’s chemists found an enzyme, alcalase, that could separate the two without drying first.
The researchers are testing ways to turn the collected protein into a human food additive to nourish people in impoverished nations or cater to shoppers in the developed world looking for meatless protein sources.
But what to do with the fiber?
A researcher at the university had recently discovered a new bacteria species that converts some sugars into a compound called 2,3-butanediol, which is used to make biofuel and plastics. 
The scientists broke down their leftover fiber into basic sugars, fed them to the bacteria, and collected the 2,3-butanediol that the bacteria excreted.
The team is working to scale up its new processes and determine whether they’re economically practical.
TRENDPOST: The food industry is a prime candidate for entrepreneurs and existing businesses hunting opportunities in the emerging circular economy, in which one process’s trash is another’s feedstock.

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