Alex Villeneuve

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Student Researches Innovative Food Production

First year Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management student Alex Villeneuve is certainly making a name for himself. Working alongside Dr. Paul Tiege of the Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI), Villeneuve has been researching and developing a system that takes spent grains used in the production of beer from the Olds College Teaching Brewery, and has been using it as substrate for the growth of mushroom crops. 

Alex VilleneuveTraditionally, spent grains used in the production of beer have been looked upon as a waste by product,” explains Alex, “my research and work has been focused on finding ways to efficiently use this waste in the production of new food products.”

The recycled grains are pasteurized and inoculated with mushroom mycelium, which helps to break down the left over and unnecessary fibre in the grains.  This reaction produces enough nutritional content within the grains to produce protein-rich mushroom crops, producing healthy and delicious food products from what has traditionally been seen as a waste by-product from brewing beer. 

Villeneuve’s research has motivated him to start his company, Ceres Solutions Ltd. His company is currently working exclusively with the Olds College Teaching Brewery out of a business incubator on the Olds College campus, although he hopes to expand his business and begin working with other breweries soon.

Alex has been working in consultation with the experts at the (OCCI). The expertise in horticulture and crop research, including data analysis, data collection, and testing different varieties of mushrooms, has been key in helping Alex so far.

“In addition to helping me to establish my processes and giving me insight into the scientific side of things, partnering with OCCI has given me the opportunity to learn about how to start up and operate this business,” he remarks. “The support of Olds College has been crucial to getting
the company off the ground.”

Alex received support from the College’s ATREK Fund, which gives students and small local businesses the opportunity to explore and evaluate new business ideas, helping to ensure that innovative ideas do not get stuck in the development phase due to lack of funding, resources or mentorship.

For more information on the Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI), visit oldscollege.ca/research