Provectus Looks to Reduce Livestock Methane Emissions Using Algae

Cows being fed on a farm

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Nov 3, 2023

Provectus Algae has commissioned a demonstration plant for its methane-reducing livestock feed additive, Asparagopsis, marking a step toward large-scale production.

Asparagopsis is a macroalgae that is found in tropical and warm waters and has been found to cut livestock methane emissions by up to 95%, but the algae’s slow growth and fluctuating compound concentration have made it difficult to scale at an affordable rate. Provectus said it has found a way to produce such algae more quickly with a consistent concentration, allowing for lower overall costs, by using its Precision Photosynthesis technology.

This production system allows Asparagopsis to be grown anywhere in the world, including near farms, helping lower shipping costs, reduce emissions, and avoid loss of product during transport.

“Given that the agricultural industry typically operates on tight margins, the reality is that without offering a viable product at a low cost per dose, it will be difficult for farmers to adopt,” said Nusqe Spanton, founder and CEO of Provectus Algae. “We are now confident that our approach can deliver scalable production at less than 50 cents per dose and enable wider adoption of high-efficacy bio-based methane-reducing feed additives at costs competitive with existing synthetic alternatives.”

Asparagpopsis Could be a Tool to Reduce Emissions

Provectus will now scale production of Asparagopsis from its 10-kiloliter pilot operation to a 30-kiloliter demonstration plant in Australia. The new facility will provide enough capacity to produce more than 700 doses of the additive each day, or enough to remove over 4 metric tons of carbon daily.

The company also plans to expand this demonstration plant to 160 kL, starting the construction of a new large-scale facility in 2024. By 2025, Provectus aims to supply doses to over 250,000 animals in 2025, reducing over 500,000 metric tons of carbon each year.

The use of the algae in emissions reductions has been widely studied, especially in Australia, and some results have been mixed. A study released earlier in 2023 by Meat and Livestock Australia found that of 40 wagyu cattle given an Asparagopsis supplement, methane emissions were reduced by 28% but the animals ate less and weighed around 30 pounds less than average.

Impact of Livestock Methane Emissions, Proposed Reduction Solutions

Methane is known as a highly potent greenhouse gas, more than 25 times more damaging than carbon in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere. The International Energy Agency has stated in a recent report that cutting methane gas emissions is key to decarbonization worldwide.

Livestock is a key contributor to methane emissions, with a single cow producing about 154 to 264 pounds of methane gas every year, according to the EPA, 1.5 billion cattle raised for meat production worldwide account for at least 231 billion pounds of methane released into the atmosphere every year. Some suggested livestock methane-reduction strategies include lowering reliance on meat with plant-based diets, manure management practices, and the introduction of a methane tax.

Avoiding meat entirely is not an option for many, especially those in developing countries with scarce protein resources, while methane taxes would likely hurt revenue for farmers or lead to increased food prices. Therefore, livestock feed additives, such as algae, have been considered a promising option.

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