COIL Stories

Terra Bio:

Researching & innovating safer ways to use spent brewery grains

Terra Bioindustries (Terra Bio) applied to the COIL Evolve program with an innovative approach to ensure upcycled spent grains are safe for human consumption. There are currently very few guidelines and regulations for by-products as they often come from different industries and vary in consistency. Terra Bio is looking to create a protein powder from spent grains but wants to ensure that it is entirely safe for consumption before commercialization.

Quinoa held in cupped hands over a full bowl of quinoa

 The Impact

Ensuring safe consumption: Spent grains are a great option to study safety criteria since grains like barley are already a highly regulated raw material. Terra Bio is researching what the minimum criteria is to define spent grains as food safe in order to use the by-product as a protein source.

Upcycling from upcycled materials: With their research, Terra Bio has identified that they can use the same process of extracting the proteins from spent grains, to extract the sugars from the remaining cellulose, the outer layer of the spent grains. These sugars can be used in fermentation processes in place of white sugar and corn syrups at a comparable cost.

 How they made it work

Terra Bio is working with various partners and breweries to test different spent grains. Wellington Brewery has been a key partner in helping Terra Bio understand what regulations they need to follow, and what processes need to be in place from start to finish. In parallel, Terra Bio is advising Wellington Brewery on enhancing the consistency and quality of products which in turn, will result in a more consistent and safer by-product.

They are also working with Escarpment Labs to test out how extracted sugars can be fermented for fungi and yeast. Terra Bio and Escarpment Labs are still developing this process of refining the sugars but are showing promising results thus far.

“Don’t just focus your mind on your own process. Look into the process of how your byproduct is being generated. If you understand the source and the challenges from generating that input, you will better understand the risks that come from recovering that byproduct. Always look at the raw material and then target your process.” – Ricardo Martinez, President of Terra Bioindustries 

Funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario