Thursday, January 21, 2010

Recycling Distillery Waste

Now that we do tours of the distillery we've found certain questions get asked a lot. One of the most popular is "what do you do with your grain after it has been used for your products?" Traditionally distilleries have sold or given their "spent grain" to local farmers who use it as feed for cattle and hogs. Unfortunately this didn't work for us because we produce very little and we're located in the city -farmers, understandably weren't interested in driving into the city to pick up the small amount of spent grain we generate. We tried many ways of getting rid of it and occasionally found people who wanted to use it as deer feed and compost for their gardens. This unfortunately wasn't going to work as our volume grows. Fortunately we got a call last year from a new venture that said they would love to get their hands on our waste (so to speak).

That call was from the visionaries at Sweet Water Organics, an urban fish and vegetable farm in a re-purposed industrial building located in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood (and only 2 miles away from our distillery!). Sweet Water is the first major commercial application of aquaculture techniques developed by Milwaukee's Will Allen who has become quite famous for developing and teaching techniques for growing sustainable food in an urban environment.

We visited Sweet Water Organics on a cold December day and were stunned when we first walked into the old industrial building. The space was bright from a combination of natural light streaming through the windows and massive grow lights mounted over long troughs of lettuce and watercress- a sight for sore eyes in the middle of a Milwaukee winter. Beneath the troughs, pools filled with fish, Tilapia and Perch. The pools provide nutrients to the plants, the plants naturally clean the water from the pools which is then returned to the fish.

Our spent grains and other components of the urban waste stream are found in a massive compost pile behind Sweet Water. Jim Godsil, one of the founders turned over a pitchfork full of compost- practically soil now which was laden with hundreds of worms. Soon the worms and worm castings will become another product offered by Sweet Water.

Sweet Water frequently opens for fish auctions, tours and events, check their website for a schedule of times.

1 comment:

Lo said...

Brilliant. We've been meaning to make it over to Sweet Water to take a tour. If they've got worm castings (just in time for spring gardening), that gives me another great reason! Love this.

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