Sydney-based company Sea Forest has received a $1 million federal government grant to drive its expansion into the commercial production of the methane-inhibiting aspargopsis seaweed, for use as a livestock feed additive.
CSIRO research has shown that when used in ration inclusions as low as 0.5pc, aspargopsis can reduce livestock methane emissions by as much as 98 percent. In a subsidiary benefit, the process also improves livestock weightgain and feed efficiency.
Sea Forest has worked closely with the CSIRO over the last five years to test and refine its product. It plans to expand commercial production at seabed sites close to aquaculture projects in Tasmania.
Asparagopsis was identified by a CSIRO-led research team, which discovered its ability to significantly reduce the amount of methane produced by cows and sheep when added to their diets, almost entirely eliminating the production of the greenhouse gas.
The seaweed was discovered to be native to the waters off Tasmania.
Sea Forest was among seven businesses sharing in $4.2 million in matched funding in the latest round of the government’s Accelerating Commercialisation grants released this week.
“Through this latest funding, we’re backing projects that will improve agricultural processes and reduce greenhouse emissions, all while growing a developing industry that will create jobs,” Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said in a statement.
Sea Forest chief executive Sam Elsom said the Commercialisation Grant would fast track his company’s ability to scale and supply asparagopsis supplement to livestock producers across Australia and globally.
“Using the supplement to reduce methane in cattle is an economic no brainer,” Mr Elsom said in a statement.
“Since the world-leading CSIRO research has come out, the demand by farmers and large scale livestock producers has been incredible. Twenty percent of the cow’s energy is lost in converting food into methane, so there will be significantly less food needed to grow livestock.”
Mr Elsom said asparagopsis was also a game-changer for oceans, as it de-acidifed water, stripping out carbon dioxide.
“In effect, the water will be pumped back into the ocean cleaner than when it came in,” he said.
Sea Forest said it had already received substantial interest from major retail chains and agricultural producers.
The growing global production of sheep and cattle has emerged as a major challenge for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with methane having a global warming potential 28-times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Livestock is responsible for as much as one-sixth of global emissions.
Sea Forest has already secured some high profile early investors including Mick Fanning, Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake and Tom’s Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, and has already secured a partnership agreement with New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra.