Few things will upset your vacation plans to the Gulf of Mexico quicker than news that a red tide is set to greet you at the shoreline. And that angst extends to restaurants, shops, and other businesses in the area, which take a beating when these harmful algal blooms, or HABs, drive away beachgoers.
One of the most well-known HABs is the Florida “red tide” caused by Karenia brevis, a type of algae that produces potent neurotoxins. The toxins can be suspended in the air near beaches and cause human respiratory illness.
Now, it turns out the byproduct of beer may eventually help save the day for the tourism industry.
The Darwin Brewing Co. in Bradenton, FL, has started sending approximately a ton of spent grains each week to the Mote Marine Laboratory to combat red tide. Scientists at the Florida lab originally partnered with the University of Maryland to determine how the grains may be able to eliminate the cells that cause the blooms.
A variety of compounds that can slow or kill the microalgae or phytoplankton are thought to be plentiful in the spent grains, also known as soggy barley, which are often used to feed livestock. The grains would not be dumped straight into the water — on their own, they contain ingredients that could damage the environment or actually fuel a bloom — but rather flavonoids and possibly some acids would be extracted and then mixed with red tide.
While the byproduct isn’t expected to be a silver bullet in eradicating the problem — as it is more likely they will become part of a multi-faceted approach — the results so far are promising, according to researchers. If the effort is successful, it means more vacationers will be raising a mug of their favorite suds to celebrate their time at the beach instead of crying in their beer because they had to cancel the trip.