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OHIO’s Voinovich School project to re-purpose brewery waste receives USDA grant

Published: October 17, 2019 Author: Staff reports

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently awarded $50,000 to Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs associate professor Dr. Sarah Davis to continue her research into using brewery waste in organic agriculture.

Davis applied for funding through the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative and will work with Voinovich School research scientist Kimberly Miller on the project.

The project combines the growth of organic agriculture and microbrewing with her longtime research in advanced bioenergy. Davis and Miller have studied anaerobic digestion technology as one method for making fuel and fertilizer from waste.  

In her proposal, Davis notes that the explosion of craft brewing has led to a similar increase in brewery waste. Most brewery waste is spent grain: the mass of grain husks and parts of seeds and flowers used to make the mash from which beer is brewed, some of which can be used for feed, but other waste products go unused.

“Socioeconomic conditions are ripe for leveraging brewery waste as an organic soil amendment because the volume of this waste is growing and it poses a challenge for business owners to manage,” Davis said in her proposal.

Although this mixture is ideal for composting, she notes that National Organic Program standards offer no clear guidelines on doing so. Her project aims to correct that by identifying technology to make brewery waste suitable for organic soil amendment.  The project will involve a variety of stakeholders -- including farmers, brewery owners, and researchers from academia and agriculture extensions – for guidance and assessment. Key collaborators are Kevin Geiger and Art Oestrike at Jackie O’s Brewery, Ed Brown at OSU-USDA extension office in Athens County, Becky Rondy of Green Edge Gardens, and Art Trese in the Ohio University Department of Environmental and Plant Biology.

According to a recent release from the organization, Davis’ project was one of 30 investments totaling $24.1 million made by NIFA to support farmers and ranchers in growing and marketing high quality organic food, fiber and other products through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative and Organic Transitions Program.