Montana Microbial Products has opened a pilot facility in Butte. (Photo: Montana/FIS)
Montana company plans to make fish feed out of barley
Friday, June 01, 2012, 23:30 (GMT + 9)
Missoula-based Montana Microbial Products wants to make barley protein concentrate for use as fish feed.
Cliff Bradley, co-owner of the company and a microbiologist and biochemist, thinks this grain offers unique qualities. For example, barley is readily available and its protein’s nutritional quality is rich enough to replace fish meal, he said.
Since 2007, Montana Microbial has been working on plant-based proteins with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) -Agricultural Research Service at its lab in Bozeman. It has opened a pilot facility in Butte and sent protein samples for testing at the University of Idaho's Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station, Capital Press reports.
Montana Microbial has also collaborated with Clear Springs Foods, which produces 20-22 million lb of fish for human consumption annually. Clear Springs is seeking a lower-cost replacement for fish meal to help satisfy burgeoning demand for fish in the face of rising costs.
Using barley instead of the millions of tonnes of menhaden and other small fish that are removed from the oceans each year to feed fish would mitigate both ecological problems and climbing feed costs, as the total amount of fish captured for fishmeal has not changed in the last 20 years, demand has escalated sharply.
Clear Springs successfully ran small-scale testing of barley protein concentrate and hopes to move on to large-scale testing in the fall.
Montana Microbial seeks to provide Clear Springs with the barley protein concentrate it will use in its pilot production.
It is also obtaining funds for commercial production and hopes to build a facility in nine to 12 months, Bradley said, northeast of Great Falls in Ft Benton in a barley-growing region.
This plant would generate 5,300 tonnes of barley protein concentrate a year and 2 million tonnes of ethanol from the barley waste. As the global aquaculture sector uses 2.5 million tonnes of fish meal, the market potential is tremendous.
Bradley said that the plan is to build plants in countries that have both fish and barley production.
Kelly Olson, Idaho Barley Commission administrator, noted that the commission has remained engaged with Montana Microbial, USDA-ARS and Clear Springs to advance efforts. The problem has been acquiring the financing needed to build a processing plant in a tough economic climate.
The plan is to establish more plants once the first one is built and the feed proves viable for fish producers, she said.
USDA and Montana Microbial have a patent pending on their production technology.
By Natalia Real