Kentucky’s highly touted bourbon industry has a problem.

The number of distilleries has increased 250% in the past decade.

And they’re producing 96 million gallons of stillage — waste product — a year.

So, the state is encouraging people to submit creative ideas, technologies and solutions for using stillage to “create jobs and move Kentucky’s agritech industry forward.”

Proposals are due by Aug. 30.

And five ideas will be selected for presentation at a reverse pitch competition during the 25th Distillers Grains Symposium in Louisville on Oct. 25.

Owensboro’s Green River Distilling Co. doesn’t have a problem with finding a use for its stillage.

Jacob Call, Green River’s master distiller and director of operations, said, “We give it to farmers in western Kentucky and southern Indiana within about 70 miles of Owensboro.”

The distillery produces 110,000 gallons stillage — what used to be called “slop” — every 24 hours, he said.

The stillage is given free to farmers who want to use it to feed cattle.

And if the farmers can handle a truckload of 6,000 gallons, the distillery will deliver it free within an hour’s drive.

Farmers who need less can bring their own trucks to the distillery to pick up stillage, Call said.

“Cows drink about 20 gallons a day,” he said. “So, we’re feeding around 5,000 cows a day.”

The Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association estimates that there are 2.15 million head of cattle in Kentucky.

They could eat 43 million gallons of stillage a day.

But the problem is getting stillage to all the cattle.

Most of the distilleries in Kentucky are located in the central part of the state and there aren’t enough cattle in that part of the state to consume all of their stillage.

Finding uses for stillage has always been a problem for distilleries.

In the 1800s, local distilleries had stockyards nearby, where hogs were fed what was then called “slop.”

Some stockyards housed — and slopped — more than 1,000 head of hogs inside the city.

‘Slop Lane’Crabtree Avenue was known as “Slop Lane” in those days because it became almost impassable when spilling slop from farm wagons turned it into a bog.

This week, Gov. Andy Beshear said, “Our state’s bourbon industry continues to grow at an incredible rate. That means more revenue coming into the state, more quality job opportunities for Kentucky residents and more global recognition for our outstanding brands.”

He added, “However, it also means a rise in byproduct within the industry, so we are asking people for their best ideas to use this stillage in ways that create jobs and moves Kentucky’s agritech industry forward. We’re building a sustainable economy that works for all Kentuckians, and that includes ensuring our industries operate as efficiently as possible.”

Among other prizes, the pitch competition winner will get the opportunity to work alongside distilleries and stakeholders across the state to implement their ideas for surplus stillage usage.

The state says that for every gallon of bourbon produced, approximately 10 gallons of stillage remains.

It says, “Whole stillage, though mostly water, is acidic and has a high biological oxygen demand. Its useful life ranges from one to two days for wet — or thin — stillage, to an extended shelf life for dried distillers grains. Current uses of stillage include animal feed and supplements.”

Ideas submitted for the competition should, among other things, demonstrate an economic value to the distillery and the end-user of the stillage; identify the size of the distillery the solution is targeting; estimate product development costs, if applicable; highlight the financial, sustainable and environmental benefits of the solution; and project the solution’s implementation/start-up time.

To submit a proposal for the reverse pitch competition, go to BourbonReversePitch.com.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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