By Ian McConnell

Former Bacardi UK operations director Iain Lochhead has been appointed chief executive of Horizon Proteins, which turns under-utilised “co-products” from whisky distillation into nutrients for the aqua and animal feed industries.

Nik Willoughby, who founded the biotech company with head of research and development Jane White, will move from the chief executive post to become chief technology officer. Edinburgh-based Horizon’s patented technology involves recovering protein from pot ale, liquid residue left over from the whisky-making process.

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The company said that, every year, the malt whisky industry in Scotland alone produces around three billion litres of pot ale. It added that the protein content of pot ale made it “nutritionally perfect” as a feed for fish, particularly species of salmon.

Horizon describes its technology, which has undergone three large-scale industrial trials, as “a crucial element in developing Scotland’s circular bioeconomy”.

Mr Lochhead, who has more than 20 years of experience in the whisky industry, joined Horizon last year and has been providing “strategic consulting”. Chairman Ian Hamilton said Mr Lochhead had already expanded the firm’s “discussions within the industry”.

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Horizon noted it “promotes a patented process developed at Heriot-Watt University which transforms whisky by-products into high quality protein and yeast products”. It added: “Several successful pilots at industrial scale have been completed and contracts with pot ale suppliers and protein and yeast buyers are now being secured.”

Horizon is in the “early stages of planning and construction” of its first plant on Speyside, scheduled to be operational in early 2022.