An enterprising student went on a brewery tour and discovered a lot of food waste. Grain is used when making beer in a similar way that tea is steeped, after the grain has been soaking in the water it is discarded. In some areas that grain gets turned into compost, other areas the grain can end up in a landfill. Beer is an energy intensive product and being able to cut waste is beneficial for everybody, and that’s what the student did. He has started a company that takes that grain and uses it to grow mushrooms!
One day, not long after he arrived in 2015, he was eyeing a pile of spent grain left over after the sugars are extracted during the fermenting process. Brewers not only want to dispose of it, but ditch it fast, because bacteria begin to work on the grain and, after a couple of days, cause an awful stink. “Why are we throwing this away?” he remembers asking a professor. He was directed to microbiologist Paul Tiege, a research scientist in the Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI), who encouraged Villeneuve to run nutritional tests on the spent grain. “Alex spotted an opportunity . . . actually, several opportunities . . . where others see a liability,” says Tiege, who worked alongside Villeneuve on his research. “He fleshed out his idea, developed a research plan and decided to turn the idea into a business.”
Tiege says it was fortuitous timing, as the innovation centre had created an incubator fund in 2015 of up to $5,000 to ensure “innovative ideas do not get stuck in the development phase.” Villeneuve’s idea was greenlighted, and he began testing