Cow-burp carbon in the crosshairs

A key source of carbon emissions could soon be slashed thanks to a new burp-busting innovation for farmers.

Cow-burp carbon in the crosshairs

Six per cent of global emissions are in the sights of this startup

A major source of global carbon emissions could soon be drastically reduced thanks to a new burp-busting innovation for farmers.

Australian climate tech startup Rumin8 has developed a new compound based on an active ingredient found in red seaweed that can radically reduce methane emissions when added to livestock feed.

Heavy-weight investors including Bill Gates are getting behind the development which could pave the way for a new generation of feed supplements.

Animal-generated emissions, mostly in the form of methane from burps, are said to contribute the equivalent of six per cent of human-generated greenhouse gases.

Rumin8 was founded in May last year with a mission to reduce these.

According to the company, the compound has been shown to reduce methane production in livestock by up to 95 per cent.

"If we can reduce those emissions, it has a big impact, not just on the planet, but also on the long-term sustainability of the world’s livestock industries."

David Messina, Rumin8

Rumin8 has vowed to decarbonise 100 million cattle by 2030 and to this end has just raised US$12 million from Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) with participation from Australian agri-food business Harvest Road Group.

Existing Rumin8 investors, the Australian-based Aware Super Sentient WA Growth Fund and US-based Prelude Ventures, also added to their shareholdings in this second seed funding round.

The funding will help Rumin8 scale up quickly through the construction of a pilot plant and commercial trials around the world.

Other entities working on red seaweed to reduce livestock emissions include FutureFeed, a commercial entity established by Australian government agency the CSIRO.

In 2020, FutureFeed won a A$1 million international prize to help commercialise the discovery, but it acknowledged at the time that the main challenge lay in scaling up production of the ocean seaweed.

Instead of harvesting from the marine ecosystem, Rumin8 will manufacture the plant’s methane-reducing bioactive in a laboratory.

“Rumin8 offers a low cost, scalable toolbox that has already proven to be effective in reducing emissions,” BEV’s investment committee co-leader Carmichael Roberts said.

“Our team will support Rumin8 in working closely with farmers to expand the reach of this solution globally.”

According to Rumin8 managing director David Messina, livestock contribute an estimated six per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions through methane production.

“If we can reduce those emissions – and our research is demonstrating that we can – it has a big impact, not just on the planet, but also on the long-term sustainability of the world’s livestock industries and the rural communities which rely on them.”

Messina said laboratory results continued to yield excellent results with animal trials reflecting these results, while financial modelling indicated products could be supplied at a commercial price point.

“Prior to the Phase 2 seed funding round, we were progressing a number of key work streams sequentially. Now we have the resources to progress them in parallel, speeding up the road to commercialisation.”

The tech

Rumin8 plans to identify naturally occurring compounds with anti-methanogenic properties and then reproduce them in an efficient and scalable way. Rumin8’s first product replicates the methane reductions of red seaweed (Asparagopsis), but instead of harvesting it from the marine ecosystem, the plant’s burp-busting bioactive will be manufactured and transformed into a feed supplement in the company’s laboratories in a patent-protected process. Rumin8’s livestock feed supplements will be packaged into a liquid, an oil and, a solid and slow-release formulation for use in both feed lot and grazing cattle.

Who funds it

Since launching last year, Rumin8 has so far raised around A$25 million from two seed funding rounds, the latest of which attracted Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV).

Is it ready to roll

The company is about to embark on commercial trials in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the USA, and plans to construct a pilot manufacturing plant and start to develop the product brand.