Fungus grown on ethanol leftovers could make good animal feed

Researchers study possible alternative to corn, soybean meal

A high-protein fungus grown in the leftovers of ethanol production could be dried and used as a substitute for corn or soybean meal in chicken and pig feed, according to researchers at Iowa State University.

During the feeding trials, which focused on nursery chickens and pigs, researchers found that pig performance wasn’t impacted when dried fungi were substituted for corn or soybean meal, said Nicholas Gabler, an assistant professor of animal science. Researchers are still studying the effects of the feed on amino acid availability, tissue growth and intestinal health. The fungi produced a high-energy feed for chickens.

Researcher Hans van Leeuwen said the fungi production technology could save U.S. ethanol producers up to $800 million per year in energy costs. He also said the technology could produce ethanol co-products worth another $800 million or more per year, depending on how it is used and marketed. Researchers have developed a 400-gallon pilot plant at the Iowa Energy Center’s Biomass Energy Conversion facility in Nevada to test and refine the process, producing a ton of the fungi for the animal feeding trials.

The project has been supported by a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Iowa Energy Center and a Smithfield grant from the Office of the Iowa Attorney General. Lincolnway Energy of Nevada; Cellencor Inc. of the Iowa State University Research Park; and Iowa State’s Center for Crops Utilization Research and BioCentury Research Farm are also supporting the project.