Alltech closes algae fermentation plant in Kentucky

Brewing and food group founded by Pearse Lyons thought to have invested €178m in site

Alltech, the brewing and food ingredients group founded by the late Dr Pearse Lyons, has closed a US factory on which it has spent close to €180 million over eight years.

The Irish group focuses on brewing, fermentation and yeast, and has businesses here and in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Alltech confirmed it has closed an algae fermentation plant in Winchester, Kentucky, that it bought in 2010 for $14 million (€11.7 million) from US company Martek Bioscience.

The Irish group’s spokeswoman said that the Kentucky factory served as a “pilot plant” for work on new types of animal feed. She added that Alltech planned to continue researching and developing these products.

Alltech told media in the US it needed to move to a more flexible “less constrained production arrangement for algae”.

Alltech refused to say how much it invested in the facility beyond confirming it “invested heavily” there.

However, the company told a US trade publication, Biodiesel Magazine, in 2011 that it was spending $200 million renovating the factory.

That figure combined with the purchase price would bring total spending on the Kentucky plant to €178 million.

Some 20 people lost their jobs at the factory as a result of the move. Alltech’s spokeswoman said that the company was committed to assisting them in finding new posts within the organisation or with other employers nearby.

Pond scum

Alltech develops animal food additives from natural material such as yeast, bacteria and enzymes. It bought the Winchester facility to ferment algae, the green organic material better-known as pond scum found in water for use in animal feed and aquaculture.

When it reopened the plant in 2011, Dr Lyons predicted that algae was going to be a “game-changer” in science.

Alltech recently sold a plant in Serbia that supplies local bakers to French rival Lesaffre. The Irish company said it wanted to focus on other growth areas.

Dr Lyons founded Alltech in 1980. It now employs about 3,500 people. Its European headquarters is in Co Meath and its global head office is in Kentucky.

Its founder passed away in early March from an acute lung condition developed as he recovered from heart surgery. His family continues to own Alltech and is involved in its management.

Along with its animal feed operations, the group has brewing and distilling business based in Lexington Kentucky and in Dublin, from where it also distributes craft beers such as Foxes Rock and Blacks of Kinsale.

Accounts for All-Technology Holdings Ireland Ltd and Subsidiaries, the main Irish-registered business, show it earned €4.75 million pretax profit in 2016 and ended the year with €105.7 million net assets.