Australian brewery incorporates seaweed into beer production


By Josh Bonifield

Australian Brewery Young Henrys is working to tackle climate change with an unusual ingredient: seaweed.

The fermentation process that occurs during beer production releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), which can contribute to climate change. It takes about two days for a tree to absorb the CO2 released by the production of a six pack of beers. But, Young Henrys says their internally grown algae not only absorb the CO2 they release, they also produce as much oxygen as two and a half acres of wilderness.

Algae, a photosynthetic organism, is often considered a nuisance because it can cause a red tide (a toxic algal bloom) or infect local water sources. But, they’re also up to five times more efficient at absorbing carbon than trees, according to technology company Hypergiant.

Oscar McMahon, co-founder of Young Henrys, sees their potential to reduce emissions from beer production. McMahon told Food Tank: “This is a one-time project and the goal isn’t to make a profit. It’s about creating something that we can then share with other people for the sake of it. ‘adapt and use it. “

Young Henrys signed this project with Sydney University of Technology to achieve carbon neutrality. To experiment with the effectiveness of his system, Young Henrys uses two bioreactors to grow algae. The first, a control, contains CO2, oxygen and algae. The second contains the same three components but is connected to a fermentation tank. As the fermentation process produces additional CO2, the gas flows into the bioreactor.

According to McMahon, at the end of each day, the control bioreactor consistently contains 50 percent less algae. This demonstrates that the algae from the experimental bioreactor successfully consume the harmful greenhouse gas, McMahon told Food Tank. The hope is that this system can not only reduce CO2 emissions from beer production, but ultimately convert them to oxygen.

This specific project will continue for another year, but McMahon hopes the algae will continue to reduce Young Henrys’ carbon emissions as they find additional uses for the organism.

Young Henrys is currently experimenting with incorporating algae into foods, pharmaceuticals and bioplastics. Other companies around the world are also developing energy bars, dietary supplements, protein shakes, and other seaweed-based foods and drinks.

To increase algae production and develop these new products, McMahon and Young Henrys are consulting with engineering and beer industry groups to make this process scalable. McMahon says micro-breweries and national breweries will need the infrastructure and technology to easily incorporate algae into beer production.

McMahon describes the beauty of the algae and microorganisms used in the fermentation of beer as “ying and yang organisms, similar things that live in large reservoirs of liquid that do opposite but corrective work.”

Republished with permission from Food Tank.

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