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Beer Waste Brewing Food For Farm-Raised Fish

IDAHO SPRINGS ― The popular Fat Tire Amber Ale has been heralded for its "toasty malty" flavor.

But the New Belgium Brewing Co. beer has another characteristic: It's a key ingredient in an environmentally friendly form of fish food.

Three Colorado entrepreneurs are wagering hundreds of thousands of dollars to convert the wastewater from New Belgium's brewing operations into a high-protein ingredient to feed farm-raised fish.

The trio and their Idaho Springs startup hope to usher in change to the booming business of fish farming, or aquaculture. Fish farming has taken off as the world's catch of wild fish has hit a plateau. Global fish consumption, meanwhile, is climbing.

Farm-raised species such as salmon and tilapia rely on other fish such as anchovies and menhaden, which are ground into fish meal.

"We can't support the growth of the aquaculture business using fish to feed fish," said Randy Swenson, CEO of Oberon FMR Inc. "The business we're in is fish meal replacement."

Global fish meal production has been relatively flat at around 6 million to 7 million metric tons a year in recent years. Aquaculture output, by contrast, has been climbing at an annual clip of 5-plus percent, to more than 48 million metric tons in 2005.