Cows are a significant source of methane emissions, primarily due to their unique digestive systems. Dairy and beef cows are ruminants, which means they have a special stomach (called the rumen) that contains billions of microorganisms that facilitate the decomposition of fibrous plants. The process is called enteric fermentation, and when these microbes work to digest the cellulose in the cows’ diet, methane is produced as a byproduct. That’s a problem: The EPA states that methane is 25 times more potent than CO.2 As a greenhouse gas. Algae Bioscience jumped to the rescue, creating a new feed for cattle that would dramatically reduce how much scraping occurs.
“Enteric methanogenesis, also known as cattle burps – is the world’s single largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions. During the digestion process of cows, sheep, goats and other livestock, microbes in the stomachs of these animals break down food into smaller components such as carbohydrates, proteins and “They break down fat. As a byproduct of this process, methane is produced and released into the atmosphere as the animal molts,” explained Alex Brown, co-founder/CEO of Alga Biosciences in an interview with TechCrunch. “When we got into Y Combinator, we put all of our money at the time into academic live animal experiments to test our product, and we found that methane emissions from beef cattle were undetectable with our process. This is the first time an effect of this magnitude has been seen in live animals.
Reducing belching has side effects in addition to the environment. Methane is full of energy, and Alga claims that about 12% of the calories a cowman feeds his cow is wasted in the form of methane burps. This is a huge hidden cost for farmers, and creates a huge opportunity to redirect those calories into meat and dairy production. The theory goes that kelp-based food additives provide a direct way to reduce anthropogenic methane emissions. It can also be of great economic benefit to farmers.
The company raised a round led by a peer-to-peer fund, and the company has now raised a total of $4 million in funding. In addition to the collaboration, Y Combinator, Day One Ventures, Cool Climate Collective, Pioneer Fund, Overview Capital and others participated. The company received funding from the USDA Climate Smart Commodities.
“The best climate technology startups build solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while being cheap, scalable, and reliable. Collaborative Fund investor Tomas Alvarez Bellon, like us cattle farmers, is thrilled that they believe the Alga solution hits that trifecta. “We are committed to creating a world free of methane. We are delighted to support Alga Bio in Travel.”
The company is producing the food supplement for large commercial pilots, and the company told TechCrunch it can produce tens of thousands of heads per day. There is much balance to growth; Some sources estimate that there are about 1.5 billion cows in the world.