Methane is a potent climate pollutant that has more than 40 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere. Ruminants, such as sheep, goats and cattle, release enteric methane from normal digestive processes primarily through “burps.” Previous research has shown that feeding a red seaweed, Asparagopsis taxiformis (AT), to cattle can dramatically reduce enteric methane emissions; however, AT is not readily available in large quantities for livestock. To address this challenge, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) recently awarded a $200,000 grant to Greener Grazing, LLC, a subsidiary of Australis Aquaculture, LLC, to develop the world’s first seed bank and ocean cultivation techniques for AT. Australis Aquaculture, together with several other philanthropic funders are providing matching funds for a total $603,500 project investment.
Reducing enteric methane emissions will play an important role in offsetting carbon emissions from agriculture and other sectors, and potentially offer cattle producers additional sources of income through voluntary carbon markets. Prior research indicates that feeding cattle AT reduces enteric methane emissions and may improve feed efficiency – an additional benefit for livestock producers. However, AT’s complex life cycle has made it very challenging to farm, so it is currently not widely accessible to researchers, feed companies or livestock producers.
“Producing enough Asparagopsis taxiformis for commercial purposes, affordably, can have a substantial impact on methane emissions,” said FFAR Advanced Animal Systems Scientific Program Director Dr. Tim Kurt “Addressing methane emission will drastically reduce agriculture’s climate change emissions and this project could move the needle on further positioning agriculture as a climate change solution.”
Led by Josh Goldman, Greener Grazing’s research team is establishing the techniques required to initiate scalable, ocean-based AT cultivation. Dr. Leonardo Mata, the project’s lead scientist, is one of the few researchers who have successfully induced AT spore formation and further propagation. Greener Grazing team will build on this achievement by propagating multiple cultures of AT to create the world’s first AT seed bank and developing onshore hatchery and nursery cultivation systems located near Ninh Hòa in Khanh Hoa Province, Vietnam to facilitate mass production of the seaweed.
The research team is working closely with key sector participants from FFAR’s Red Seaweed Phase II grant to support animal trials by providing red seaweed biomass produced from test farms in a cost-effective manner. By establishing an AT farming system, Greener Grazing researchers are creating affordable access to larger quantities of AT, which can bolster environmental and economic impacts for the beef and dairy industries.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
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