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Barley is getting a lot of press lately, much of it focused on its superpowers as a healthy food full of fiber, minerals and vitamins.

Often used in bread, stews and beer, barley is one of the healthiest cereal grains in the world – one that contains an extraordinarily high amount of protein.

However, recent developments in plant research demonstrate that barley’s potential beneficial uses stretch far beyond the dinner plate. A new product from food-ingredient supply giant Scoular called Emerge has tapped into the ancient grain’s protein power to create a barley-based protein food source for pets and aquaculture.

Scoular recently opened a new Emerge processing plant in Idaho’s Magic Valley, in the heart of America’s top barley-producing state. Here, barley is processed for use in fish farms and across the livestock industry. This new avenue for barley is particularly exciting because it is made without the use of any harsh chemicals – and because it opens up a wealth of financial opportunity for the state’s barley growers, three-quarters of which previously relied on the malt beverage industry for the bulk of their business. The new process is both greener and more economically sound, especially for trout farmers. More than seventy percent of America’s trout farmers are based in Idaho, many just up the road from the Scoular plant.

Photo Courtesy Scoular Emerge

“Scoular is proud to develop this innovative feed product and partner with Idaho’s barley farmers and pet food and aqua feed manufacturers to add value throughout the supply chain,” Scoular CEO Paul Mass said.

Emerge is not only safe, healthy food for fish in fish farms, it also improves the natural water quality by significantly reducing the compounds the fish eliminate as waste. Because it contains only a trace amount of the highly-polluting mineral phosphorus, it doesn’t cause the pollution other fish food does in fragile watersheds like the state’s Snake River.

Emerge started as a lightbulb-style idea from Montana Microbial Products. Scoular program manager JC Olson heard about the concept and reached out to the company to work together on the barley protein concentrate. The successful new product’s uses are likely to scale globally, bringing more work and thus more financial stability to Idaho’s farmers.

“We’re going to be able to create really a higher-value ingredient that will go all over the world,” said Scoular’s Vice President and Feed Division Manager Joe Andrus. “[Idaho] is our first plant. Our goal is to expand. We’re going to be competing in places where barley has never competed before.”

Photo Courtesy Amit Lahav

In addition to its exciting new environmentally-friendly avenues in aquaculture and pet food, barley is one of the best cover crops for erosion control, nutrient recycling, weed suppression, and pest suppression. As research into the unique grain continues, its future as a sustainable, healthy, and economically-advantageous plant looks bright.

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