The grain cluster is a circular economy pioneer – bread and warmth from beer mash
Viking Malt’s energy-efficient malthouse, Fazer’s xylitol factory, Hartwall’s biogas plant and a large number of other circular economy innovations. The companies in the Päijät-Häme Grain Cluster have invested more than EUR 100 million in circular economy projects in the Lahti region, in which the side streams of production are harnessed into new business.
The Päijät-Häme Grain Cluster, founded in 2003, is a regional co-operation network of more than 800 grain farmers and companies that process grain-based raw materials in the region. Its purpose is to support the networking of local farmers and the companies of the cluster, increase co-operation between companies that process grain and promote the profile of the region’s grain expertise. The annual turnover of the companies in the Grain Cluster is roughly EUR 600 million in total, and they employ approximately 3,000 people.
The Managing Director of Fazer Mills Jarkko Arrajoki acts as the Chairman of the Grain Cluster; he describes it primarily as a cooperation and development network for actors in the grain sector.
“The Grain Cluster is open to all companies in the grain sector in Päijät-Häme. The goal of the cluster’s activities is to offer additional strength for all participating companies to support their growth and development. The companies decide for themselves how they participate in the company and how they take advantage of the cluster’s activities and network.”
“From the perspective of Fazer Mills, the Grain Cluster is an excellent forum for sharing experiences and best practices,” Arrajoki sums up.
Side streams create new business
Viljaklusterin yritysten viime vuosina tekemillä yhteensä yli 100 miljoonan euron investoinneilla on iso merkitys yrityksille, koko
elintarvikealalle sekä Lahden seudulle. Suuri osa hankkeista nivoutuu kiertotalouden ympärille.
According to Jarkko Arrajoki, the Grain Cluster has drawn up several reports on production side streams in which the circular economy is strongly present. The cluster’s companies have found new uses for their side streams that create new business for both companies and their partners.
“For instance, Fazer’s mill and bakeries are currently making bread bags out of the surplus oat hulls from production. One bread bag contains 25% of oat hulls,” Arrajoki says.
"Companies have found new uses for their side streams that create new business."
A whole production plant, Fazer’s xylitol factory, was created around oat hulls, a side fraction of the oat mill’s production. As for the residual oat hull mass produced in the processes of the new xylitol factory, it is used as fuel at the bioenergy heating plant by Lahti Energia that uses it to produce renewable heat energy for Fazer’s factory area in Lahti. The expansion of the oat mill doubles the capacity of Fazer Mills. It is the largest investment made since the mill was built.
Viking Malt makes a massive investment in Lahti
Another giant project in progress in the Lahti region, the malthouse by Viking Malt of more than EUR 90 million, is being built at the Pippo-Kujala industrial area at the intersection of excellent transport connections.
“We surveyed several countries and areas to find the location of our new malthouse. We picked Lahti as the investment target, because the availability of raw materials, the competence accumulated in the area, the customers nearby and the location with regard to logistics proved to be the best option for the company,” says the Chairman of the Board of Viking Malt Group Pär-Gustaf Relander.
Viking Malt’s new malthouse is energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. Its heat production, cooling plant and heat pump system are integrated in a new way into a single whole that produces heat and cooling at the same time. In addition, the barley dust and hulls created as a by-product of the malthouse are used as fuel in energy production.
Jarkko Arrajoki characterises Viking Malt’s investment as an exemplary project from the perspective of circular economy.
“The values of the Grain Cluster’s companies spring up from nature. Cooperation between companies, responsible operations and continuous development form the core of the Grain Cluster’s new strategy. The companies in the Grain Cluster aim to reduce emissions and minimise waste,” Arrajoki comments.
The many possibilities of mash
The Teerenpeli Brewery, located close to its customers, also invests heavily in reducing waste; there, waste bread from nearby shops replaces a part of the mash used to brew beer.
“The idea to use waste bread in brewing beer came from the shopkeepers of K-Supermarkets in the Lahti region. It was such an excellent idea that we decided to join in immediately,” the CEO of Teerenpeli Brewery & Distillery Anssi Pyysing says enthusiastically.
The waste bread is dried and ground on site at the shops, after which it is transported to the Teerenpeli Brewery, where it is used as a part of the malted barley mash.
The journey of the waste bread does not end at the brewery; the surplus malted barley mash from beer brewing finds a new life at the bakery of Pulla-Pojat in Hollola, where it is baked into tasty tin loaves.
“The circle is complete, when the original waste bread returns to the local K Group shops in the form of Kauppiaan Lähiolut beer and fresh bread,” Pyysing smiles.
At the Hartwall brewery area, surplus mash is used as a source of renewable energy. An unusual biogas plant will be built at the yard of the brewery in cooperation with Lahti Energia; it will operate based purely on circular economy and the raw materials of the brewery.
“The surplus mash from beer brewing is used to produce gas. The raw materials travel efficiently from the field to the brewery and back again: the material that remains after biogas production is returned to the fields to feed the crops of barley. The ripe malted barley comes back to the beer vat as malt,” says Hartwall’s production and supply chain director Tomi Korte.
“Hartwall is committed to carbon neutral production during 2023, and the biogas plant makes it possible to reach this ambitious goal,” Korte continues.
Good at getting around
Jarkko Arrajoki, Chairman of the Päijät-Häme Grain Cluster, is proud of his team for good reason. The cluster of experts in the grain sector is unique in the whole of Finland, and it represents the entire value chain of grain from farmers to industry and retail.
The cluster cooperates with parties such as MTK, Salpaus Further Education, LUT University as well as the LAB University of Applied Sciences.
“By taking responsibility for the overall impact of our activities on the environment, we can identify development targets and work together to use food production as a solution for many challenges. In the hands of the Grain Cluster members, responsibly produced grain from Päijät-Häme together with pure groundwater are transformed into amazing food that people both in Finland and all around the world can enjoy.”
“In addition to pure groundwater, the future focus areas of our strategy can be found in product development as well as ensuring the availability of a skilled workforce. Together with contract farmers, we develop sustainable and revitalising methods of growing grain. With close and active cooperation, we strengthen the operations of all companies and farmers in the Grain Cluster,” Arrajoki concludes.