IBioIC helps Horizon Proteins adapt their recovery processes to a new market.

Horizon Proteins (HP), a spin-out of Heriot Watt University, are leaders in the field of protein extraction from malt whisky by-products. The extracted protein is processed into high quality salmon feed, adding value and supporting the Scottish aquaculture industry.  This collaboration demonstrated that extraction processes developed for malt whisky by-products could be successfully used on grain whisky by-products. 

Spent wash vs pot ale

There are 1.6bn litres of pot ale produced annually in Scotland as a by-product from the malt whisky industry, which is usually processed into low-value feed materials or discharged into the environment. Spent wash and grain residues are the by-products of grain whisky production and can cause significant environmental issues.

HP have developed innovative techniques to treat pot ale, capturing useful proteins and reducing the environmental impact of its release. The company wanted to know whether the same process could be used on spent wash and grain from grain whisky distillation. The collaboration also aimed to characterise the proteins present in both spent wash and grain from wheat and maize distillation and evaluate how they differ from those present after malted barley distillation.

A go ahead for protein recovery from grain whisky

These linked projects successfully confirmed that HP’s process is applicable to grain whisky with minimal adaptation. The success of this project has opened up new and lucrative markets for HP, such as the extensive bourbon whisky market in the USA. Positive environmental impacts are also seen, as co-products are upcycled into a sustainable source of fish food.

A skilled workforce

New skills have been developed both at HP and at Heriot Watt University. The increased knowledge has had a positive effect on both the university and the company as the skills and techniques learned cascade through to other projects.

Horizon Proteins were pleased to expand their contacts in the distillation sector and to solidify their international reputation as a leader in protein extraction from sustainable sources.


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