Sarasota researchers using beer byproduct to fight red tide

Sarasota County

Darwin Brewing Co.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Red tide ravaged coastal communities across Tampa Bay back in 2017. The sights and smells that came along with the algae blooms just weren’t good for business. Bill Cornelius says red tide devastated the community and even impacted his Bradenton brewery.

“It impacted us too because we sell a lot of our beer in restaurants and business just fell off to almost nothing. You could just smell it and you couldn’t go outside without smelling it; that’s how bad it was.. just terrible,” said Cornelius.

Fast forward to 2020, Darwin Brewing Company is now part of Mote Marine Laboratory’s efforts to fight red tide.

Scientists are using spent grains from his brewing process in research to clear Karenia Brevis from saltwater. The local project is a partnership with researchers at the University of Maryland.

“This group in Maryland had been working with spent brewing grain and the effects that it has on freshwater cyanobacteria, and so when this opportunity came around.. the question was, can this work on Karenia brevis,” said Mote Marine Laboratory senior scientist, Dr. Vincent Lovko.

So far, the results are promising.

“We obtained some spent grain from a local brewery, Darwin Brewing Company. We tested those, so we extracted them by basically just soaking them in water, using that water and exposing Karenia brevis to that and we did see Karenia brevis basically disappear within about 24 hours, probably even quicker than that.,” said Dr. Lovko. “It depends on the dose that you use. One caution is that the brewing grains are going to have a lot of other compounds in them as well, not necessarily dangerous compounds, but nutrients, things that can actually fuel a bloom,” he continued.

Researchers say they are focusing in on compounds called flavonoids.

“These are known to be algicidal or at least inhibitory to algae and so we are trying a variety of pure flavonoids, but we also still want to focus on the extracts from the brewing grains because it could be a combination of those flavonoids, as well as other compounds and these, are all-natural compounds and we anticipate that they will be pretty benign in the environment otherwise,” said the senior scientist.

Dr. Lovko thinks within a few years, researchers will be able to demonstrate that these compounds can be affective on Karenia brevis in a natural environment.

“Our next step is to scale up to larger scale studies, not quite in the natural environment yet, but probably by the end of the project here which would be next summer, we will be using much bigger 10,000 liter tanks to test these compounds,” said Dr. Lovko.

He says Mote plans to continue using spent grains from the Bradenton brewery.

It has been a very good working relationship with them, we are happy to be a part of their family. We are trying to do our part,” said the brewery owner. “It really takes no effort from us. It is grain that we have to get rid of, so it is a win-win for everybody,” continued Cornelius.

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