Penticton-based Winecrush Technology Inc. is preparing to patent a new process for transforming grape pomace and wine lees into what it describes as “a high-performance flavour enhancement ingredient.”
Pomace typically represents about 30% of the grapes crushed for wine. It is often composted or sent to landfills, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. A ton of decomposing pomace generates about 43 kilograms of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Winemakers have long sought alternative uses for pomace, with pomace brandy and a variety of industrial uses being common. But a growing body of research, including a recent study from the University of California-Davis, confirms that wine grape pomace can yield valuable health-enhancing compounds.
Winecrush is building on the science with its process. Working in partnership with the Summerland Research and Development Centre, it has received $124,800 through the federal government’s Agricultural Clean Technology program and $100,000 from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to develop the process. It processed 150 tonnes of waste from 10 wineries in the Okanagan last year for use as food additives and biopharmaceuticals.
Winecrush CEO Kirk Moir says the company’s product remains in the pilot stage, with several companies testing the current formulation.
“Winecrush has been focused on market research and validation since mid-last year, and the strongest response has been from the plant-based foods market where there is significant innovation occurring,” he notes. “We’re very happy with the results we and our customers are achieving.”
Similar innovations designed to address agriculture’s environmental impact could be in the offing with the expansion of the Agricultural Clean Technology program. The original three-year program was worth $25 million, but the latest federal budget allocated $165.7 million for its renewal and expansion over the next 10 years.
The program includes $50 million for grain dryers as well as $10 million over the next two years towards “powering farms with clean energy and moving off diesel.” Details on additional funding under the program will be available shortly, according to Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.