The methane-busting seaweed technology developer, CH4 Global, has secured a grant of $500,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund .
CH4 Global plans to aquaculture and process native Asparagopsis seaweed at significant scale at its operations in Southland, Marlborough and Northland in New Zealand and initially in the Port Lincoln area in South Australia.
CH4 Global is collaborating with Australia’s CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), an independent federal government agency responsible for scientific research), and has a Board and Advisory Board with significant research, development, marketing, large-scale production, distribution and investment experience in major global companies.
“Our vision is zero methane agriculture and this PGF grant will bring us to that vision much sooner. We are grateful to the PGF for sharing our excitement in this prime opportunity for New Zealand’s regional communities,” explains CH4 director and co-founder, Nick Gerritsen, a New Zealand-based entrepreneur with particular expertise in bioscience and technology ventures.”
CH4 Global (CH4 is the chemical symbol for methane) aims to affect climate change by harnessing the power of a special red seaweed (Asparagopsis), which is native to New Zealand and South Australian waters.
Trials in the USA and in Australia in sheep, dairy cows and feedlot beef cows show methane reduction effects ranging from 60 up to 90+ percent. CH4 Global is focused on growing at scale for markets in the USA (California initially), New Zealand and Australia.
Selling the product to farmers will require a licence from CSIRO, which holds patents on the use of Asparagopsis (and other species) for the purpose of methane reductions in ruminant animals.
Dr Steve Meller, director and co-founder of CH4 Global, says:
“Selling Asparagopsis in any form in any market anywhere in the world to farmers to use will require a licence from CSIRO. Many other groups who are working in this space aren’t aware of this.”
CH4 Global is focused on making it easy and cost-effective for farmers to adopt a simple and viable approach to climate change.
“Our intention is to put money back into the farmer’s pocket by producing a highly nutritious supplement so the cows need less feed overall and the resulting dairy or meat products can command a premium by being carbon neutral. Plus, the farmer avoids any penalties for exceeding carbon emissions,” says Mr Gerritsen.
Dr Meller says:
“We are more than happy to work with any group or organization who has an interest in being supplied quality, scaled Asparagopsis. Our website enables anyone to register their interest.”
The feed supplement will be suitable for a range of ruminant animals, including dairy cows, beef cattle, goats and sheep. The potential market for this product is estimated to be worth $1.3 billion a year in California and more than $7 billion a year in New Zealand.
“We believe that climate change is real. Action is needed now to change the way we do things. We are realists about convincing the world to do things differently and that means making the change as easy as possible,” says Mr Gerritsen.
Dr Meller says the focus is on making a globally-scaled, Asparagopsis supply business real and viable as fast as possible.
“Asparagopsis seaweed is an unrealized resource that nature has provided to reduce methane in cows. This will be good for farmers, good for the country and good for the planet.”
Mr Gerritsen explains that, unlike some other seaweed technologies, CH4 Global is well advanced in its development and has already successfully processed its first 100 grams of finished product.
He predicts CH4 Global will be the first commercial scale producer and the leading global supplier into Australasia, California and other livestock-centric areas around the world.
CH4 Global has completed sampling and biomass evaluations of wild Asparagopsis at more than 50 promising sites in both countries as well as beginning aquaculture cultivation trials on land and in the sea.
Leading aquaculture research labs will be analysing the samples for critical data to ensure that the final finished product is of top quality no matter where it is sourced. At the same time, CH4 Global has shared they are developing protocols for material handling and transport logistics and processing systems through to final product.
Dr Rob Kinley, livestock systems scientist with CSIRO, is collaborating with CH4 Global with technical input and support into the seaweed aquaculture and product development.
Dr Meller says, importantly, CH4 Global has begun discussions with multiple, potential aquaculture partners.
“We have just closed our seed funding round and will be targeting the US and Asia for further funding following initial interest from potential investors.
“We’re working to make Asparagopsis available for farmers and feed manufacturers as soon as possible. We expect to have research-scaled samples available early in 2020 for those wishing to explore collaborations and we plan to have significant tonnage available for initial markets less than a year later,” he says.
Mr Gerritsen notes that for New Zealand, where 48 per cent of carbon emissions come from cows, there will be little chance of hitting the Government’s greenhouse gas emission goals by 2030 and no chance of 2050 carbon neutrality if the methane from cows is not stemmed.
“More than ten years of research by CSIRO supports the benefits of Asparagopsis in reducing methane from cows and much of that pioneering work has been repeated by other groups from academic and commercial backgrounds. In addition, Asparagopsis can be powerful in improving the marine environment where it grows through reducing ocean acidification and cleaning up phosphate and other nutrients from sea and terrestrial sources. And it doesn’t seem to affect the taste of the milk or meat in studies to date.”
Mr Gerritsen says CH4 Global also wants to develop an aquaculture business that is responsible and sustainable.
“We are working in areas where this ancient seaweed thrives naturally and is abundant. We are collaborating with local and indigenous communities in New Zealand and South Australia to ensure they can benefit from our work through sustainable employment opportunities.”
Source: CH4 Global