While many people will be enjoying the St Patrick's weekend festivities with a beer or two, how many of us have ever given much thought to the waste created in the brewing process?

Grain is needed to make beer, but once the brewing process is over, it is discarded, as 'spent'.

Now sibling entrepreneurs from Athlone, Co Westmeath are using brewers' spent grains to create a nutritional food supplement which can be added to everything from soups, sauces and baking, to a bowl of porridge or your morning smoothie.

Niamh and Ruairi Dooley are the brother and sister behind zero-waste food brand BiaSol.

"We set up BiaSol to help our two homes, our planet and our bodies," Niamh said. "Resources are valuable, food is valuable, we can’t keep taking things and throwing them out.

"A third of all food produced ends up as waste, which is a crazy statistic," she added. "All the energy to produce it in processing is wasted, as well as the food. With brewers' spent grain, some goes to animal feed, which is great because its being used, but we can also bring it back to the human food chain and it completes the circle."

Each week the brother-and-sister team collect as much as four tonnes of wet spent grains from six craft breweries in the Midlands and east of Ireland.

They bring it to their facility in Tullamore, Co Offaly where it is dehydrated, milled and packed.

Ruairi and Niamh started BiaSol in lockdown as a project to keep their minds occupied. Image: Kirsty Lyons

Niamh’s approach to upcycling food waste stems from when she worked in a vegan restaurant in Vancouver, Canada. She lived there for two years after graduating from her studies in food science at the University of Limerick.

"In the restaurant, we had extra chickpea water from soaking them for falafels and hummus, and we took the water that would have been discarded otherwise and upcycled it for use in vegan whiskey sours. That was the first time I took a waste product and added value," she said.

The pair decided to go into business together in 2020. Ruairi was living in Australia and the siblings decided they wanted to work on a project to keep their minds occupied and to bring them closer together while so physically far apart.

"I wasn’t going to be back from Australia for a long time," Ruairi said. "I suppose Covid was the lowest of the low for most people and it was for us too, but every cloud has a silver lining. That's what BiaSol has been for us.

"I wanted to eat better and understand the effects macro nutrients can have on our bodies, so when we realised spent grain was full of fibre and protein, I was interested to see where we could take that."

Niamh said they get great pride from seeing customers coming back to buy more of their products, and they hope to continue building on what they have started.

"Obviously, we need to walk before we can run, but we’re Ireland’s first Upcycled Food Association member and we want to create more products and make consumers aware we can eat in this way," she said.

"Our wider vision would be to look at other waste streams and continue upcycling and keep growing that circular economy in Ireland."

In our 'Climate Heroes' series of reports, we shine a light the people who are stepping up to protect our environment and tackle climate change. While these people come from all walks of life, they share a common purpose to improve the world around us.