Exploring a Circular World: Barley Malt Rootlets as an LME Alternative

Imagine a world where nothing goes to waste, where products are designed to be reused, repaired, and recycled efficiently, creating a closed-loop system that minimizes environmental impact while maximizing economic value. Sounds great, right? This vision is what Escarpment Labs strives towards in the hopes of redefining our relationship with resource management and being an example of how it's possible to reshape the industry.

In a world where sustainability is no longer an option but a necessity, innovative solutions are emerging and becoming an integral part towards tackling the challenges of resource depletion, overconsumption, waste accumulation, and environmental degradation. Amongst these solutions, those revolving around contributing towards a circular economy offer a transformative approach to how we should be carrying out our day-to-day activities and business decisions.  

Let's dive into how we are going to start!

Finding an Eco-Friendly LME Alternative

There are an abundance of nutrients, sugars, and proteins that go into yeast production, but there’s one ingredient that I want to focus on: Liquid Malt Extract or LME. 

LME is a high-quality, concentrated form of malt which contains high amounts of accessible sugars, nitrogen, and micronutrients necessary for yeast biomass production. The issue is that the economic and environmental impact of utilizing LME has become calamitous. The cost of LME has increased by 50% from 2020 to 2023, and it is a single-use, internationally transported, and heavily refined product that undergoes high-heat treatment, making it a high greenhouse gas (GHG) contributing ingredient. Escarpment has been actively working towards diminishing our GHG emissions over the years and we haven’t stopped! 

This article will take a dive into an LME circular substitution product that will provide our yeast with the same high-quality constituents minus the negative environmental side effects. With that being said, let me introduce you to Barley Malt Rootlets.


What are Barley Malt Rootlets?

Barley Malt Rootlets (BMR) are produced during the germination stage of malting, and are separated from the malted barley after kilning. Under normal circumstances this by-product is either tossed away or used as animal feed, however, Escarpment Labs sees the potential in BMR. This product contains high amounts of bioavailable amino acids (providing FAN), and carbohydrates, with additional micronutrients such as calcium, potassium, and phosphorus that can be extracted and concentrated for growth utilization.  

What We’ve Seen So Far

Primary lab scale testing utilizing BMR as a main nutrient source has been underway, and with promising results ! Several rounds of test ferments, pH analysis, contamination, cell and viability counts are all being considered when running a quality comparison analysis against our standard growth media. All testing has been completed using our very own top strains to ensure we get accurate results, and what we’ve been seeing has been spectacular. Most, if not all of our strains ferment just as quickly as our standard media without compromising quality. 

Currently we process the rootlets through a mashing stage, protease treatment step, sieving the rootlet mash to obtain just a liquid media, and finally autoclaving that media to ensure no contaminants are roaming free. The ecological impact of this project would be prominent as this would reduce the production of 2,632 kgCO₂eq per week, resulting in an overall carbon emissions drop of 8.2%.

Proof of Concept: Exploring Barley Malt Rootlets’ Impact on Craft Beer at Avling Brewery 

We were so excited to get this project started that we decided to pitch the idea to an amazing, well recognized, eco-driven brewery, Avling Brewery. This Toronto based brewery has their very own rooftop farm where they grow their own crops to use for their kitchen, beer, and to stock their retail store with. In addition, the team dedicated time and effort towards reusing brewing wastewater for their garden! So we knew these were the right people for a pilot brew.

Using BMRs as a base nutrient source, we propagated a pitch of our new experimental saison yeast for Avling to brew with. Both teams couldn’t be happier with how it came out! The beer had popping notes of citrus, a bit of spice, and orange zest. 

Moving the project forward, we had the opportunity to share this great beer with the leaders of the circular waste industry during the wasteCANcreate summit held in Toronto during March of 2024. The wasteCANcreate program has a goal of bringing together Canadian researchers and industry partners to convert food waste into bioplastics creating real-world solutions to Ontario, and the rest of the world. Needless to say, we got to meet some amazing business owners, individuals with very unique, and exemplary ideas, and inventions who all have taken circular solutions as their main focus for building a more sustainable future. It was a pleasure to be in the same room with people who share the same passion and goals for the environment.


What's Next for Us 

As we delve deeper into the potential of Barley Malt Rootlets (BMR) as a sustainable alternative, our focus shifts towards optimizing efficiency and maximizing nutrient extraction. Escarpment Labs is dedicated to refining our processes by exploring a variety of proteases and amylases to unlock the full potential of FAN, and carbohydrates trapped within the rootlet walls. While we're excited about the progress we've made, there's still more testing and finalization required before our circular rootlet media reaches production stage.

Despite the ongoing development, our commitment to delivering high-quality and reliable yeast to our customers remains unwavering. Each step we take brings us closer to a future where sustainability is not just a goal but a standard practice. Who knows? Your next pitch of yeast might just be propagated using a circular, sustainable method, paving the way for a greener, more resilient brewing industry.

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