A startup has invented a pill that curbs world warming by stopping cattle from belching methane
Australian Rumin8 Ltd. is offering a synthetic alternative that, like seaweed, prevents the formation of greenhouse gases in the belly of cattle
To prevent cattle from burping methanethe industry of meat is trying to add seaweed for your food🇧🇷
But the collectors Asparagopsisthe edible red seaweed, which prevents the formation of greenhouse gases in the belly of cattle, may face difficulties in meeting the growing demand.
An Australian startup, the Rumin8 Ltd.is offering a synthetic alternative that mimics the effects of seaweed.
Why is methane so dangerous
Methane is the second biggest cause of global warmingand the livestock contributes with about 32% of the emissions generated by human activity🇧🇷 Just counting the 1.5 billion cows created globally for slaughterthat’s 231 billion pounds of methane a year.
Including seaweed in livestock feed could reduce 98% of their methane emissions, according to a study.
The relatively recent discovery of the energy-reducing powers of methane of Asparagopsis gave rise to a new sector of marine agriculture and production of food additives.
Seaweed takes about four months to get ready to be harvested and requires huge expanses of open water to grow; intensive farming can have negative effects on other forms of aquatic life.
And it doesn’t come cheap: A Commonwealth Bank of Australia report in September estimated that producing a year’s supply of seaweed just for the country’s beef industry could cost between
- A$132 million (US$89 million) and
- A$1.62 billion (US$1.1 billion)
What is Rumin8’s deal
Perth-based Rumin8 is bringing to market products that contain bromoform, the active ingredient in seaweed that inhibits methane production, and are made in a lab, not the ocean.
Their offerings will include a water-soluble option for grass-fed cattle, for less adventurous animals, powdered mineral supplements and an oil-based liquid that can be mixed into pellets. A slow-release formula in the form of a large pill is also in the works.
Laboratory tests conducted by Rumin8 have shown that the additive can reduce livestock emissions by more than 95%, says David Messina, co-founder and CEO. The final product will cost no more than 10% of an animal’s lifetime value, he says.
Large-scale animal trials are scheduled for this year and next. Rumin8, which expects to start manufacturing in Western Australia in 2023, is backed by
- venture capital firm Prelude Ventures LLCheadquartered in San Francisco
- and the Australian pension giant Aware Super Pty
Some scientists urge caution, however, regarding the use of seaweed and synthetic alternatives because of their high levels of bromoform, which is banned under the Montreal Protocol, the historic 1987 environmental treaty that identified chemicals that destroy the ozone.
“When the world realizes that we might be producing ozone-depleting chemicals to solve the methane problem, I don’t know if anyone will be happy about that,” says Richard Eckard, professor of sustainable agriculture at the University of Melbourne. “A lot of that should still be in the research phase rather than the commercialization phase.”
How does bromoform work?
While there is not yet extensive research into what happens to bromoform when it is ingested by livestock, industry suppliers say concerns about bromoform are unwarranted.
A spokesperson for FutureFeed, the Brisbane, Australia-based producer of the commercial additive Asparagopsis, says there is not enough seaweed in the company’s animal feed to damage the ozone layer, and Rumin8’s Messina says bromoform breaks down almost completely in an animal’s stomach after about three hours, leading them to claim that there is no impact on the environment.
These claims are supported by a literature review published in May 2022 in Algal Research, an international academic journal. The nine authors led by Christopher Glasson of the University of Waikato in New Zealand—including three who are involved in commercializing the use of Asparagopsis for methane mitigation—wrote that microorganisms involved in livestock digestion break down algal bromoform added to their food.
In conclusion, they said that “large-scale aquaculture of Asparagopsis and its application in methane mitigation strategies for ruminants at or near minimum effective levels of inclusion, may not negatively impact methane mitigation. animal healththe quality of food or the depletion of the ozone layer”.
Seaweed feed additives and their alternatives have yet to affect methane emissions from livestock.
The commercial supply chain is in its infancy and there are still no incentives for farmers to buy supplements or regulatory processes to oversee their use. Tests continue, including some using varieties of seaweed that contain lower levels of bromoform than Asparagopsis.
What are the alternatives to seaweed
Non-seaweed options are also being explored, such as burping masks and a biocharcoal additive. Eckard is in favor of a nitrate and bioalcohol food additive manufactured by the Dutch nutritionRoyal DSM NV, but would require more frequent feeding of the animals to achieve maximum impact, making it impractical for free-ranging livestock.
Furthermore, scientists in New Zealand are in the early stages of developing an anti-burping vaccine. add more fat in cattle diet can reduce methane production by up to 24%, says Alex Chaves, professor of animal nutrition at the University of Sydney’s School of Biological and Environmental Sciences. This is safer than working with bromoform, he says, which he calls the substance toxic and unsustainable.
Several approaches may be needed to reduce emissions from livestock with the amount of methane in the atmosphere rising to record levels, including the biggest peak last year since monitoring began four decades ago.
“Over the past 30 years, we have spent millions, perhaps billions, of dollars trying to mitigate this situation. We learned a lot, but the success was very small”, says Chaves. “We have to end this ‘silver bullet’ idea.”