By CH4 Global
April 24, 2023
The list of signatories to the Global Methane Pledge is growing, and nations and industries urgently need methane mitigation strategies and technologies to meet climate goals and commitments.
Multiple solutions exist to reduce enteric methane emissions. At CH4 Global, our approach is to use whole Asparagopsis seaweed in combination with other ingredients in customized formulations. Asparagopsis is what we call our “star ingredient”—a high-performer backed by years of scientific study.
We’re often asked how our approach compares to that of others in this growing industry, in terms of efficacy, ease of implementation, and scalability.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- The most promising approaches to reducing enteric methane.
- The science behind the remarkable methane-reducing effects of Asparagopsis.
- How Asparagopsis really compares to other approaches – both seaweed and non-seaweed.
- Our latest thinking on the viability of Asparagopsis-based solutions.
For a discussion of Asparagopsis safety, please see Part 1 of this series. For a discussion of why enteric methane reduction is a vital part of climate strategy, please see Part 2.
Innovations in enteric methane reduction
Methane formation is a normal part of the digestive process of ruminant animals like cattle, sheep, and goats when digesting complex carbohydrates like grasses and grains. Most enteric methane reduction solutions focus on preventing methanogenesis, aka methane formation, in the animals first gut – the rumen.
Methanogenesis takes energy—energy derived from the animal’s feed intake—and anti-methanogenic approaches not only reduce enteric methane emissions but also may reduce feed energy lost to methane production.
There are many varied solutions being explored that range from physical devices (like masks), to probiotics, natural/botanical ingredients, and combination products through to synthetic molecules all with varying efficacy that has been published. None of them have the proven efficacy of Asparagopsis.
Furthest out on the horizon are anti-methanogenic vaccines.
How feed additives compare in terms of efficacy
The genus of seaweed known as Asparagopsis includes two species of note: A. taxiformis and A. Armata. These two species have similar bioactive chemistry but require different growing conditions.
The anti-methanogenic effects of Asparagopsis in cattle have been the subject of study for over a decade. In multiple studies, inclusion of the seaweed in the diet of cattle has been shown to deliver the highest methane reduction of up to 95%.
When comparing efficacy levels of different methane-reducing solutions, it is important to keep in mind both the size of the differences between them, and the ranges of efficacy demonstrated by individual solutions along with the amount that has be delivered to the cow. For example, if Solution A has 20% to 50% efficacy and Solution B has 50% to 80% efficacy, then the differences between them, at both the top and bottom of their ranges, is significant. Because of this difference, fewer trials are necessary to confirm the superior efficacy of Solution A than if the differences were marginal.
While Asparagopsis is increasingly the subject of study due to its remarkable anti-methanogenic effects at very low levels of inclusion, research continues as to which components of Asparagopsis are responsible for those effects. Bromoform is understood to be the key component delivering that utility, so much so that synthetic bromoform is being developed as a solution for enteric methane reduction.
However, Asparagopsis contains about 100 halogenated bioactives and, while bromoform is the highest in concentration, it is by no means the only bioactive. Our data, as yet unpublished, clearly shows that, with Asparagosis, bromofrom is responsible for an important percentage the overall effect but the other halogenated actives are responsible for the even more of the effect. This synergistic effect is part of the magic. You could, increase the dose of bromoform if you were just dosing bromoform to increase efficacy. But higher levels of bromoform could cause safety concerns that would have to be evaluated and have not, as yet.
Efficacy plus scalability and more
Efficacy is only one piece of the puzzle. The question to ask of any approach is, “Is it scalable to the degree required to make a meaningful impact on methane reduction and therefore global climate?” And can it be done profitably?
Currently, several organizations are devoting efforts to developing ways to produce Asparagopsis at scale. Organizations producing Asparagopsis to make claims about enteric methane reduction are required to meet quality standards. Once produced and packaged, Asparagopsis can be kept shelf stable when stored in cool conditions.
The commercial key to scale is profitability of any operations. Driving COGS down is the key to improving profit margins. Being able to build a reliable end-to-end process with low margins is insufficient to create scalability.
At CH4 Global, we are evolving our Asparagopsis platform, i.e., lowering the cost per unit so it is economically feasible for our partners, creating a proven aquaculture and production process that is replicable in locations around the world, minimizing the ecological footprint of our operations, and deepening our understanding of the biology of this seaweed. At the same time, we are working with our partners to ensure that we deliver our products in formulations and formats that work them and slot in easily in their operations.
Maximizing the potential of Asparagopsis-based products
At CH4 Global, we see enormous potential in building on the unmatched efficacy of Asparagopsis. Currently, we are working to enhance stability, palatability, and usability of our Asparagopsis containing formulations for different cattle feeding regimes. These efforts further demonstrate that Asparagopsis is agriculture’s best bet for reducing enteric methane at scale.