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By Hugh Boag
The man behind the proposal to convert distillery waste into innovative by-products has emerged as Arran Distillers major shareholder, Les Auchincloss.
The Cork-based businessman will use all his worldwide experience in harvesting natural produce to convert the pot ale liquid effluent and spent grain from the Lochranza and Lagg distilleries for reuse.
Torrylinn Developments Limited, a newly registered company based at the derelict Torrylinn Creamery site in Kilmory, which is wholly owned by Marigot Limited, has bought the site from First Milk and has pledged to spend £6 million to get the new project up and running.
But in an exclusive interview with The Arran Banner Mr Auchincloss – who owns 68 per cent of Arran Distillers shares – emphasised that plans were still at an early stage and that the development would be a ‘slow burner’.
He said it made perfect sense for the distillery to process the waste itself, rather than pay someone else to process it and said the new venture was ‘worth a gamble’.
However, he was critical of Scottish Development International for failing to back the project, but said it would press on itself.
He also said the project was behind schedule as a result of difficulties with the CalMac ferries.
‘Marigot Ltd has an enviable track record in the development of innovative products based on sound scientific research and brings the full weight of the group and the considerable experience and expertise across all its research facilities to the project,’ he said.
The company has invested considerable time and money over the past five years researching uses for the waste products from the distilleries and has in that period developed an innovative method to convert the effluent into a fermentation substrate which can be used to produce a variety of post biotic products.
And the company has extensive existing market opportunities for the supply of biological products for agriculture, animal feed supplements and human food supplements.
Following successful laboratory trials into the utilization of pot ale liquid effluent and spent grain from the distilleries, the company is in the process of setting up a pilot plant at Torrylinn, not to verify the concept, but to determine the final specification and choice of the equipment required.
Completion of these trials is expected by the end of February 2022 when the company will immediately move to finalise the plans for full-scale production which could start in early 2023.
A highly-skilled work will be required which will include scientists, laboratory technicians as well as production management and operators, expected to initially to total eight people growing to 12 within the first three years.
The need to provide accommodation to attract experienced and talented people to the island has led to the restoration of two cottages at Torrylinn Terrace for workforce accommodation has already begun and there are plans for the further block of four two-bedroom units for production staff.
The company anticipates an investment in the region of £6 million over three years, which will include expansion/rebuilding the current facility, a new office block, a new laboratory as well as the required manufacturing/processing/storage and material handling facilities.
Mr Auchincloss, a Scots born entrepreneur, has a real soft-spot for Arran.
He spent summers in the 1950s working as a harbourmaster in Whiting Bay and Lamlash and met his wife on the island before moving to Canada, where he worked in the brewing industry.
After moving into renewables he set up Biocan, later sold to Unilever and set up Marigot company, based in Cork, in the early 1990s which is a natural ingredients producer.
Mr Auchincloss was a pioneer in the study of the nutritional value of seaweed minerals; the company created two product ranges for use as an ingredient in foodstuffs, one for human consumption and one for animal feeds.
The product range for the agri-feed sector, which improves digestion and rumen conditioning in cows, is called Acidbuf, while the food ingredients and supplement industry range is called Aquamin.
With these two brands, Marigot now has sales in 40 countries globally and a turnover of in excess of €20 million.
And in 1994 when he heard Harold Currie was planning a distillery on Arran and was looking for investment he invited him to Guernsey, where he was living at the time, where they ‘hit it off big time’ and after becoming one of the first investors is now the major shareholder.