• MTSU features state’s only fermentation degree for food and energy production
  • Fast-growing fermentation industry needs skilled workers
  • Process boosts bolder flavors for food and drink, ranging from ales to yogurt
  • MTSU is near many craft facilities and major manufacturers

Fermentation Science, B.S.

MTSU’s new Fermentation Science major is the first degree program of its type in Tennessee and rare in the Southeast region. Fermentation is now understood to be an ideal vehicle for the production of highly nutritious and long-term stable foods with unique flavors, textures, and aromas. Tennessee is home to a large and diverse community of food processors, and the most significant growth has been in the fermented foods segment of this vitally important industry. Courses in Fermentation Science will be taught in partnership with local companies, and hands-on training sessions at industry sites as well as internships will be scheduled to accommodate both working professionals and traditional students. Tennessee hosts 60 wineries, 30 distilleries, 52 breweries, 10 cheese-making operations, the largest yogurt manufacturing plant in the world, additional smaller yogurt producers, and two major ethanol production facilities.

New brewery will house MTSU fermentation, sensory labs

New brewery will house MTSU fermentation, sensory labs

Alumnus Mark Jones (’90) founded Steel Barrel Brewing Co., a new 82-acre agribusiness enterprise opening in Murfreesboro in 2017. (Think Arrington Vineyards, only serviced by a brewery instead of a winery and raising hops instead of grapes.) The business will also serve as the location of MTSU’s new fermentation lab and sensory lab—a kind of “psychological space” highlighted by blind testing, tasting, and smelling activities. The cutting-edge facility is starting up just as MTSU launches the Fermentation Science program. “It’s almost meant to be, the way things are laying out,” Jones said. “Part of the new degree requires internships, and we can give students hands-on, real-world opportunities, as well as prepare what will become a qualified labor force for us.” The beer industry, which also includes the growing craft brewing segment, had a combined economic impact of $252.6 billion across the U.S. in 2014.

Fermentation is old and new at the same time

Fermentation is old and new at the same time

While the practice of fermenting foods dates back 8,000 years or so, the science behind the processes continues to evolve. And the search for bolder flavor and better nutrition in the U.S. is increasing the demand for familiar fermented foods like sourdough bread, as well as food products native to other countries such as kefir, miso, and pickled fruits and vegetables. “The science behind brewing beer and fermenting foods is largely the same,” program director Tony Johnston said. “We use microorganisms such as yeast, bacteria, and mold to create foods we like to consume—cheese, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt, sauerkraut, summer sausage, pickles, kimchi.” Fermentation has the capability to produce probiotic compounds in foods, as well as convert sugars into acids that are “much better for us,” Johnston said. It’s also the only food preservation technique that doesn’t require the input of energy.

The explosive growth of the fermented foods and fermentation-derived energy over the last 20 years indicate significant potential for employment of graduates with the proposed degree. Fermented food manufacturers of every type need college graduates with specialized training who can enter the workforce ready to sustain and advance the industry. The B.S. in Fermentation Science addresses both the current, pressing needs of local industry and creates new opportunities for highly trained food industry specialists who could transition from one type of fermented food industry to another. A 2014 survey by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA) shows a preference for a four-year degree for management and leadership positions, as well as for brewmasters or head brewers. Other positions where a four-year degree is indicated includes quality positions, brewery positions, lab technicians, and engineers. Job titles graduates may choose to pursue

  • Biomanufacturing operator
  • Bioprocess engineer/scientist/researcher
  • Brewer (assistant/associate/lead/master)
  • Brewery operations director
  • Cellar technician/manager/operator
  • Distiller (assistant/associate/master/head)
  • Enologist
  • Ethanol operator
  • Fermentation engineer
  • Fermentation process specialist/developer
  • Fermentation scientist
  • Manufacturing scientist
  • Maltster (assistant/senior/master/head)
  • Research winemaker
  • Research brewer
  • Research distiller
  • Scratch baker
  • Winemaker (assistant/associate/master/head) 

Employers of MTSU alumni include 

This information is still being compiled since this is a new program.

Program graduates will have the opportunity to work in a variety of positions for major manufacturers operating in middle Tennessee, including General Mills (Yoplait), Kroger (Dairy Division), Brown-Forman (Jack Daniel’s), and Diageo (George Dickel), as well as an ever-increasing number of locally owned and operated fermented food producers.

Examples of other potential local employers     

  • Cargill Inc.
  • Century Harvest Farms
  • Great Lakes Cheese
  • Greenbrier Distillery
  • Steel Barrel Brewing
  • Sweetwater Valley Farm
  • Tennessee Distilling Ltd.
  • Yazoo Brewing Company

Possible national/international companies

  • Anheuser-Busch Inc.
  • Boehringer Ingelheim Inc.
  • Constellation Brands Inc.
  • E. & J. Gallo Winery
  • Hach Company
  • Pfizer, Inc.
  • Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
  • Zymergen, Inc

MTSU offers the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Fermentation Science, a new program in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience.

Within agriculture, fermentation science is one of the two fastest-growing areas of interest with the most immediate impact on the well-being of humanity. Program director Tony Johnston holds a doctorate in Enology and Viticulture and has worked extensively in the fermented foods industry.

Other majors in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience leading to a B.S. are Agribusiness, Animal Science, Horse Science, and Plant and Soil Science. Students may also take courses in pursuit of an Agricultural Education Certificate. Undergraduate and graduate minors are available in Agriculture.

Graduate study includes the Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Administration and Supervision with a concentration in Agricultural Education Leadership and a Master of Science (M.S.) in Horse Science with concentrations in Equine Education, Equine Physiology, and Industry Management.

For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS tab above.

General Education (41 Credits)

Communication 9 hours
History 6 hours
Humanities and Fine Arts 9 hours
Mathematics 3 hours
*MATH 1730 - Pre-calculus 4 hours     
Natural Sciences 8 hours
*BIOL 1110/1011 - General Biology I and Lab
*CHEM 1110/1111 - General Chemistry I and Lab      
Social and Behavioral Sciences 6 hours

Major Core (48 hours)

BIOL 1120/1121 - General Biology I and Lab 4 hours
BIOL 2230 - Microbiology 4 hours
BIOL 4510 - Food and Industrial Microbiology 4 hours
CHEM 1120/1121 - General Chemistry II and Lab 4 hours
CHEM 2030/2031 - Elements of Organic Chemistry and Lab 4 hours
CHEM 3530 - Principles of Biochemistry and Lab 4 hours
FERM 3700 - Consumer Motivation and Sensory Evaluation of Fermented Foods 3 hours 

Specialized Core (21 hours selected from courses listed below)   

ABAS 2010 - World Food and Society 3 hours
ABAS 2500 - Wine Appreciation 3 hours
ABAS 3160 - Value Added Agriculture 3 hours
ABAS 3810 - Milk Processing and Marketing 3 hours
ABAS 3850 - Wine Science and Industry 3 hours
ABAS 4500 - Sustainability in Agricultural Ecosystems 3 hours
ABAS 4820 - Principles of Food Processing 3 hours
ABAS 4830 - Food Quality Control 3 hours
ABAS 4850 - Food Safety Issues from Production to Consumer 3 hours
BIOL 4570/4571 - Principles of Toxicology 3 hours
LSTS 4140 - Wine Tourism 3 hours
FERM 2900 - Legal Issues—Fermentation 2 hours
FERM 3710 - Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation (BDF) Safety and Sanitatio 2 hours
FERM 4550 - Brewing and Distillation Science and Analysis 2 hours
FERM 3750 - Facility Operation and Design 2 hours
FERM 4710 - Applied Fermentation—Grains and Biofuels 2 hours
FERM 4720 - Applied Fermentation—Milk, Meats, and Baking Science 2 hours
FERM 4730 - Applied Fermentation—Fruits and Vegetables 2 hours 

Business Foundations (12 Credits selected from courses listed below)

MGMT 3610 - Principles of Management 3 hours
MKT 3820 - Principles of Marketing 3 hours
ENTR 2900 - Entrepreneurship 3 hours
ACTG 3000 - Survey of Accounting for General Business 3 hours
FIN 3000 - Principles of Financial Management 3 hours
BLAW 3400 - Legal Environment of Business 3 hours
MGMT/ENTR 4920 - Small Business Management 3 hours
BCED 3510 - Business Communications 3 hours

NOTE: Students may count Business Foundations courses toward the requirements of a minor in Business Administration or Entrepreneurship.

Electives (12 Credits)

Student may select any 12 additional hours to meet 120-hour requirement

NOTE: Elective may be applied to requirements to earn a minor. 

Capstone Experience (6 Credits selected from below)

ABAS 4800X - Fermentation Science Research Experience 1-3 hours       
ABAS 4900X - Fermentation Science Internship Experience 1-3 hours

Contact and Student Information

Dr. Tony V. Johnston

Dr. Tony V. Johnston

School of Agribusiness and Agriscience
MTSU Box 5
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

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