Barley business for beer brewing nets scientists enterprise funding

8th Sep 2014

Scientists from Norwich's renowned John Innes Centre (JIC) are developing a new business concept, based on their expertise in growing heritage lines of barley for brewing.

Crop geneticist Dr Sarah de Vos has been awarded an Enterprise Fellowship by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to develop the idea, after a demand for revived heritage lines in brewing was established.

Previous BBSRC-funded work from Dr Chris Ridout at the John Innes Centre had shown that old 'heritage' varieties of barley from seed stocks held at JIC could be grown and used in brewing to produce a range of quality beers, and has attracted interest from around the world.

Using the BBSRC Enterprise Fellowship money the business will revive and develop heritage barley varieties to provide greater choice and added value to farmers, maltsters and brewers in the malt beverage supply chain.

Dr de Vos said: I am looking forward to starting the fellowship which will allow me to focus on getting the business off to a flying start with valuable training, and new opportunities for investment. It's exciting that our heritage lines have received interest from around the brewing world and I'm confident that we can offer exceptional and unusual barley for brewers to produce even better beers. I would like to thank BBSRC and the John Innes Centre for their continued support."

In addition to the excellent malting quality, valuable disease resistance traits have been identified in the heritage varieties by Dr Paul Nicholson. The team will use crop breeding methods to introduce these traits to elite barley lines. They are focussing on the Eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada where the craft brewing sector is booming, and there is an increasing demand for high quality malting barley that can be successfully grown in the region.

The business proposition capitalises on the desire for sustainable production in agriculture by introducing barley varieties that have greater adaptive value (plasticity) with regard to disease pressures and climate change.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: "This is an excellent example of continued BBSRC investment resulting in exciting business proposal that I hope will lead to a successful and valuable company offering an excellent product to the brewing industry.

"BBSRC Enterprise fellowships are intended for exactly this sort of approach and I wish Dr de Vos and her colleagues the best with their venture."

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