First Whisky-driven cars, now Whisky-fed fish


Using biofuel from from ‘draff’, the residue of husks after fermentation of the grain and the residual waste liquid ‘pot ale’, a car was driven round Edinburgh in July.

‘Whisky-fuelled car makes first journey’ Calm down it’s not the good stuff!

Now, a Scottish scientist, Douglas Martin who is only 26, has found another use by growing algae from Whisky ‘co-products’ and feeding the omega 3 rich algae to fish. The Edinburgh-based Scientist has won an award including £5 000 to help grow his company MiAlgae. This is, I gather, an example of the ‘circular economy’. I don’t know why it’s not just called recycling. Here’s how it works:

‘We use other industries’ waste, create microalgae from it, whilst also cleaning the co-products. Our process is the embodiment of the circular economy.’

6 thoughts on “First Whisky-driven cars, now Whisky-fed fish

  1. Finnmacollie August 20, 2017 / 7:56 pm

    Soused herring?


  2. Thomas Brotherston August 21, 2017 / 6:54 am

    There is no such thing as waste. It is only materials in the wrong place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Contrary August 21, 2017 / 7:43 am

    Well said, Thomas, just like ‘weeds’, just plants in the wrong place. But, of course, finding a use for various unwanted end products is not always easy – we have to make them wanted, or ensure the byproducts are useful. I’m just wondering if the fishes actually find this algae tasty. And what the cleaned co-products are!

    I’m assuming ‘circular economy’ means that everyone is making money out of it, while recycling implies it costs us money? The terminology – using circular – makes it sound like it’s going round and not going anywhere to me, a dead end, while recycling is a more pleasing term that has a feel of moving forward: I am only commenting on the words used there, not implying anything about the actual processes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ludo Thierry August 21, 2017 / 5:59 pm

    Hi John – Hi all.

    I was initially surprised when I read this article re. potential uses for draff because my understanding had been that a ready use (and market) exists for draff (and allied by-products) in terms of animal feed (for ruminants). A quick search told me that the situation is more complex (as is usually the case).

    Apparently there can be supply chain issues around the timing of production of draff : (from an SAC doc. from 2012 – Distillery feed
    by-products briefing . An AA211 Special Economic Study for the Scottish Government. Prepared by: Julian Bell, Colin Morgan, Gavin Dick, Gillian Reid ):

    2.6 The price of distillery by-products varies significantly across the season in response to local supply and demand issues (see Chart 1 and Appendix 2). The most pronounced price swings are seen in draff due to the high cost of transport, difficulties in storage and the seasonal nature of production and demand. Feed demand is higher in the winter and early spring and then declines as grass growth resumes in late spring. This can lead to an oversupply of distillery by-products in early summer and lower prices. During summer most distilleries shut for a period of maintenance leading to localised shortfalls in supply.

    A further issue seems to be the high copper content in some of the associated by-products (you certainly learn stuff as you live in the early days of a better nation don’t you?) and the high fibre /low energy density:

    2.2 Distillery by-products are best suited for use in ruminant diets (beef, dairy and sheep) where they provide good quality protein and digestible fibre. These feeds are highly palatable with few limiting factors to feeding in ruminants though high levels of copper may limit use in some sheep diets. In contrast these feeds are of limited use in pig and poultry rations due to the high level of fibre and low energy density.

    Variable seasonal demand from the farms can lead to transport costs and associated fuel emmissions:

    1.4 Demand for draff from farms in the vicinity of each distillery can at times be insufficient resulting in a surplus at distilleries. Draff might be hauled by road from the North of Scotland to the Central Belt and into the North of England to meet demand.. This raises the cost of draff to the farmer in these more distant regions. This cost can at times be reduced by utilising return loads on otherwise empty trucks returning from the delivering grain from England to local maltings and distilleries.It is estimated that around 60% of distillery by-products used in feed are consumed in Scotland and 40% are exported mainly to the north of England.

    So it looks as if this young scientist (Douglas Martin) may well be onto something here – Potentially a process that might even out the seasonal demand etc by adding fish feed into the mix?

    Did anybody notice the fairly positive presentation of the story of Scottish Water winning various contracts in England carried on the beeb Scotland business page?:

    Scottish Water subsidiary Business Stream has increased its foothold in the English non-domestic water market, following a series of contract wins.

    The water retailer said it had secured £100m worth of new contracts since the business retail market was deregulated south of the border in April.

    They include water supply deals with Debenhams and Southampton Airport.

    Business Stream has been expanding its operations in an effort to increase its share of the £2.5bn English market.

    Last year, it bought Southern Water’s business retail arm, taking on more than 100,000 non-domestic customers across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

    The Edinburgh-based company also opened a new office in Worthing, West Sussex.

    ‘Targeted approach’

    The deregulation of the English market has enabled 1.2 million businesses and public bodies in England to choose their water supplier for the first time.

    Business Stream recently announced it had won places on two major public sector water frameworks – Laser and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – giving it access to markets in England worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

    Business Stream chief executive Jo Dow, said: “We’ve been extremely targeted in our approach, focusing on customers who are looking for a trusted partner to advise and support them on their water and wastewater requirements.

    “We feel that this offers us a point of differentiation from our competitors.”

    The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Scottish Water with its own board and independent management team.

    Notice how the beeb piece describes ‘Business Stream’ as a wholly owned subsidiary of Scottish Water – but neglects to ‘remind’ readers that Scottish Water itself remains as a public asset. The various BritNat parties were all gung-ho for selling Scottish Water off to private finance during the 2007 and 2011 Scottish elections (I can’t remember it featuring in the same way in 2016). Scottish Water was saved as a public asset by the SNP Scottish Govt.

    Good to see (public asset) Scottish Water finding new markets to service with its huge expertise . All the income streams it can profitably tap into (notice the clever word-play, please) among our southern neighbours will allow the SNP Scottish Govt to employ its limited infrastructure funds in investment into other areas.

    SNP Scottish Govt = smart Govt!

    Cheers all, Ludo


  5. Contrary August 21, 2017 / 6:56 pm

    Very very interesting Ludo, and I must compliment you on having knowledge of draff (and for keeping well on-topic there). No wonder the whisky industry makes so much money, even selling off its waste products! Good that it’s all useful though.

    I didn’t realise Scottish Water business side were engaging contracts down south, very nice, that’s the thing about privatising everything, all your services are run by other countries 🙂 . That kind of gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, that Scottish publicly owned enterprises are in other countries earning money to bring back here (a bit like what every other country in the world does?!) – do we know of any other examples like this?


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