A startup called Blue Ocean Barns has a seaweed supplement that reduces methane emissions from cows. A climate tech booster called Elemental Excelerator recently recently fed the effort, which means more cows will be eating the supplement and burping out fewer methane emissions.
Cows emit methane when they digest grasses and other feeds. One dairy cow can emit enough to equal the annual tailpipe emissions from one car (cows also have tailpipe emissions). Consider that there’s about 1.5 billion cattle in the world, and you can see how cow emissions contribute to the climate crisis.
Blue Ocean Barns received $100,000 from the accelerator, one of 17 “Earthshot Companies” recently backed by the organization, according to Danya Hakeem, a director at Elemental Excelerator, based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and East Palo Alto, California.
Elemental Excelerator says of Blue Ocean Barns (note the hamburger reference):
“Carbon dioxide is far from the only harmful greenhouse gas. Methane makes up 10% of total emissions, and one of the primary sources of methane emissions is, believe it or not, cow burps.
“In fact, the digestive processes of livestock including cows and buffalo are responsible for approximately 4% of global GHG emissions. But tackling that problem doesn’t mean we need to eliminate hamburgers from our diets. Dietary supplements like the one created by Blue Ocean Barns, which uses a seaweed-based additive, can help them burp less. How much less? Supplementing the feed of one dairy cow provides the climate benefit equivalent to converting two or more cars from gas to electric.”
Not everyone may agree that this supplement is enough to quell calls for eating less meat.
Still, Blue Ocean Barns says adding its seaweed supplement to a cow’s diet can dramatically reduce or even eliminate burped methane emissions.
How much needs to be added to a cow’s diet?
“We’re still figuring out all the ins-and-outs of feeding to cattle,” says Joan Salwen, CEO at Blue Ocean Barns.
“In early trials we used some wimpy seaweed, slightly out of season, and we had to feed more to get good results than the cows wanted to eat. The amount of strong seaweed needed daily varies based on the weight of the steer or dairy cow and the type of diet fed.”
But the startup has measured “dramatic reductions” in methane emissions of greater than 70% in steers that were fed about 1/3 cup of the ingredient as part of their 22 pounds of dry matter intake a day.
“It’s not much—more like a condiment or garnish than a main event,” she says. “But a little does a lot.”
You may have tried the same seaweed (and reaped the benefits?), since it’s used as poke bowl condiment in some Hawaii restaurants. It grows in waters off of San Diego and Baja, California. The startup, based in Redwood City, California, says natural oils in the seaweed stop the formation of methane.
Salwen says multiple cultivation and harvesting systems are in the prototype stage, including traditional smallholder farming, large-scale seaweed farming and tank systems. The supplement isn’t on the market, yet, but is being used on university farms. Boosters include Mars Wrigley and Land O’Lakes, which tapped Blue Ocean Barns for a $200,000 pilot project in September.
Salwen notes that a California law requires dairies to reduce their methane emissions by 40% by 2030.
“Currently available methane reduction interventions, focused on manure management, have enabled substantial progress toward (the) goal but are insufficient to the challenge. We are hearing from California producers that our solution, appropriate for use on both large and very small farms, is needed and cannot arrive soon enough.”
As for those hamburgers:
“We believe that nature holds the solution to many agricultural ‘problems,’” the CEO adds. “Grazing livestock that are moved regularly within sections of pasture are critical to maintaining agricultural soil health. Seaweed farming benefits both the ocean and the economy.
“Americans want choices when it comes to sustainability, whether in transportation, energy or food. We can preserve what is best in our livestock system while partnering with nature to eliminate gas emissions. We envision a future in which affordable, climate-friendly beef and dairy products, produced by real cattle, are on their way to market within a few years.”
Let’s block ads! (Why?)