Caviar from waste heat
What do a unique caviar and a steel plant in northern Italy have in common? Waste heat is the answer!
Feralpi produces steel in Calvisano, near Brescia, since the early Seventies and groundwater is used to cool down Electric Arc Furnace (EAF). During the manufacturing process, a lot of water is needed: it is clean since it never goes in contact with steel, and it is warm at the end of the process.
In 1978, the owners decided to stop wasting so much water and so much heat and chose to use them for an unexpected purpose: a fish farm, where eels could grow in mild water. But the unexpected sounded even more eccentric to the locals when, after a couple of years, the pools were used to raise sturgeons.
At the beginning, AgroIttica breeded them for their meat, while at the same time a pilot program was studying the chance to take their eggs in order to produce some caviar. It takes 12 years to get caviar from a sturgeon, and an artisanal manufacturing to correctly extract and store it, but the first results were very encouraging and the program proved to be so succesful that in the end caviar became the main branch.
Today Calvisius (this is how they named the caviar, after the original Latin name of Calvisano) is a luxury food well known all over the world, exported even to Russia, and it represents 15% of global raised caviar, employing more than 100 workers: this is a great story about how waste heat and water became an opportunity.