Since the announcement of their first-of-its-kind collaboration in March, Trent University and Karbon Brewing have been taking steps towards a carbon-negative future through education and research.
Advancing green brewing technologies
With Karbon Brewing’s goal of becoming Canada’s first carbon-negative brewery by 2024, Karbon kicked off research this summer on carbon-zero brewing innovations with Trent Chemistry professor Dr. Andrew Vreugdenhil.
Leveraging the expertise of Professor Vreugdenhil in transforming carbon waste into valuable carbon products (e.g. activated carbon), this project looked at how to repurpose brewing waste byproducts, such as brewer’s spent grain (BSG).
“Brewer’s spent grain is a carbon-rich byproduct of the brewing process, so naturally our first question was, ‘is there a way to make it useful, less wasteful, and possibly even make money from it?’” said Prof. Vreugdenhil.
With grant funding from the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) in Guelph, Prof. Vreugdenhil worked with Hamant France, an Environmental & Life Sciences Ph.D. student and one of the first students in the Sustainable Guyana program, to transform the BSG into a value-added carbon material with environmentally beneficial (including climate change mitigating) properties.
Inspiring sustainable business leaders
As part of the agreement with Trent, Karbon is involved in collaborations on curriculum development and offering students hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.
In October, Karbon CEO and co-founder Stephen Tyson visited a fourth-year managerial accounting class to talk about the way businesses can contribute to sustainability and climate change solutions. With climate change and sustainability accounting standards being new elements of the accounting curriculum, Tyson offered Karbon’s own experience as a valuable case study for students learning new ways of integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) responsibility across all areas of business operations.
“The science of climate change is way ahead of the accounting side of climate metrics. Giving the students the opportunity to learn first-hand about businesses’ role in sustainability is priceless,” said Dr. Dianne Davis, an assistant professor of accounting in Trent’s School of Business.
During Tyson’s visit, students learned the background of Karbon’s entrepreneurial idea of combining beer and climate change, an overview of Karbon’s value chain, including the local link with Wolfe Island Hopyard Ltd, and the various avenues for raising capital that new ventures need to explore, including crowdfunding.
"I enjoyed listening to Stephen Tyson speak about encouraging suppliers to bring forward and utilize sustainable options in their manufacturing process, rather than just implementing the decisions in his own business model,” said Jennifer Giles, a fourth year B.B.A. Accounting student. “Ensuring climate-friendly values are adhered to throughout the entire value chain will allow Karbon to reach their goals more efficiently, while also driving others to make internal changes.”
Tyson also joined Christopher Rooney, director of the Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Centre (ESIC) at Trent, on a panel of judges for Pitch It!, an entrepreneurial competition for students at Trent University and Fleming College hosted by the Innovation Cluster – Peterborough and Kawarthas and sponsored by ESIC. Trent Business Administration student Safiya Khaki had the winning pitch: a plant-based straw that is strong, biodegradable, and a better alternative to soggy paper straws.
"Working with students has always been part of our mission, so having the chance to present lectures on value chain and the circular economy has been amazing,” said Karbon CEO Tyson. “Learning these concepts in a classroom was something I never had the chance to do—they simply didn't teach them back then. Getting the opportunity to work with Trent faculty and teachers to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs reinvigorates my motivation for becoming an entrepreneur and trying to change a system for the better."
Karbon Brewing is also deepening its ties with the University through Cleantech Commons, a partnership between Trent and the City of Peterborough set to become Canada’s premier green technology research and development site. The company is exploring tenancy at the research park, which will strengthen their connection with Trent researchers and on-campus facilities, such as the Water Quality Centre, Trent Experimental Farm, and other world-class laboratories.