Sustainable Brewery Feeds Fish Farm With Leftover Grain And Water

Five and 20, a combination brewery, winery, and distillery in New York, teamed up with TimberFish to create a sustainable seafood farming process to recycle waste. It'll provide savings from hauling garbage off the property.


May 24 2019, Updated 10:04 a.m. ET

When breweries and wine vineyards find sustainable solutions, they can often find an alternative way to generate revenue. An Australian winery is able to generate energy for electric vehicles while customers drink their product. Now a brewery in Westfield, New York, uses excess grain and water to feed fish on their property.

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Five & 20 Craft Spirits and Brewing has teamed up with a local fish farming startup called TimberFish Technologies to provide a unique way to produce seafood. They’ll be farming with a 70-foot long tank that features multiple sections with water, harvested wood chips, and used grain. This is the startup’s first commercial product in the wild, which first broke ground last August.

The process works by taking water used in the brewing process and pushing it through the tank. Leftover nutrients from the wastewater generate microbes on wood chips and grain from beer creation. Those microbes are eaten by little sea creatures, which are then eaten by fish. In a rather disgusting way, after fish digest what they’ve eaten, that turns into microbes and the process starts again.

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“What’s a cost item for them to get rid of, we look a valuable resource,” Jere Northrop, Managing Member at TimberFish Technologies, tells Fast Company. “The whole notion is to use that instead of paying to dispose of it.” Since waste costs money to haul, the recycling efforts would save the brewery up to $30,000, and they would gain a profit from over 20,000 pounds of fish they farm. Five & 20 plans to sell consumers fish along with the alcohol they sell.

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As for TimberFish, they hope to produce a system that other companies will get into. The goal is to create customizable tanks where companies can use the best plant waste for nutrients and they can raise a mixture of fish. In the initial tank, there’s anywhere from yellow perch to largemouth bass. This would be very handy for companies that have the ocean’s saltwater as a source.

Five & 20 is New York’s first combination brewery, winery, and distillery, with the brand name forming in 2013. They actually began back in 2005 as a distilling operation with Mazza Chautauqua Cellars in Mayville, New York. There are now three family-owned wineries under the name, Mazza Wines.

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“Not only are we able to be more sustainable, but we have the opportunity to contribute to a technology that has positive potential impact for the region and beyond,” Mario Mazza, General Manager of both Five & 20 and Mazza Vineyards, said in a press release. “Personally, I get excited every time I have the opportunity to take someone on a tour through the facility and make the connection from grain fields to whiskey or beer production and now to Timberfish.”

This isn’t the first time the brewery has partnered with a sustainable company. They also work with Bird, which also supplies food from local farms. Options alternate based on the season, everything is grown in the area, and it’s all cooked on wood fire.

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