Is Asparagopsis economically and operationally feasible for reducing enteric methane?

Myth Busting Part 4: Is Asparagopsis economically and operationally feasible for reducing enteric methane?

By CH4 Global
June 12, 2023

While there is overwhelming evidence that Asparagopsis seaweed has a remarkable ability to reduce enteric methane emissions in cattle and other ruminants, the practicalities of implementing it in large-scale animal production are less settled in many people’s minds.

Some observers claim that, while efficacious, Asparagopsis is still a relatively expensive solution and therefore unlikely to see wide-scale adoption. Meanwhile, some producers of Asparagopsis seem to operate under an unstated assumption that Asparagopsis alone is a silver bullet and, if made available to them, farmers will buy it. Yet others who are unable to produce Asparagopsis economically are operating under the assumption that rebates will be made available to encourage use.

The reality is that the fundamentals of Asparagopsis aquaculture are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the challenge of wide-scale commercialization lies in:

  • Developing the know-how to cultivate high-quality Asparagopsis reliably and consistently, guaranteeing methane reductions.
  • Identifying and implementing efficiencies in aquaculture and production at scale.
  • Creating efficient and sustainable infrastructure in locations worldwide.
  • Collaborating with the right organizations to leverage efficiencies and specialist expertise.
  • Delivering a finished product that meets the requirements of large-scale animal producers.
  • Creating a cost of goods sold (COGS) model enabling a high enough gross profit margin that large-scale infrastructure lenders see value in making large loans with a favorable return.
Cracking the code of Asparagopsis

Asparagopsis leads the pack in our young industry in terms of efficacy in reducing enteric methane. This gives Asparagopsis the advantage of higher reductions per dose versus other solutions. A sampling of published studies includes this 2021 article in the Journal of Dairy Science and this one published in PLOS ONE. Asparagopsis-based feed additives boast the anti-methanogenic properties of bromoform (enhanced by other halo-bromide compounds), a key component of the seaweed.

Not all Asparagopsis products are created equal, though, and there are significant differences between products, depending on each company’s aquaculture practices, from seeding to harvesting.

For example, CH4 Global has cracked the code with respect to the necessary conditions for spore release, enabling constant hatchery output, which in turn enables year-round aquaculture.

 Second, the complex biology of this marine plant requires ongoing study to determine ways to maximize its anti-methanogenic properties. Today, CH4 Global embraces a unique approach to growing Asparagopsis that results in a higher concentration of bromoform and related compounds per gram of seaweed.

The benefit of higher bromoform concentration is greater productivity per hectare of aquaculture area, and lower cost per unit for our partners. CH4 Global is continuing to innovate in this area.

MORE THAN BROMOFORM – The anti-methanogenic properties of the bromoform in Asparagopsis have led some companies to isolate it from the rest of the seaweed. Others have developed synthetic bromoform to make the benefits of bromoform more economical. But whole Asparagopsis, with its multiple components working together synergistically, may bring co-benefits that are not available in bromoform extract or synthetic bromoform. Bromoform has the highest concentration of all the halogenated compounds in Asparagopsis, and accounts for about a third of the anti-methanogenic effects of the seaweed on a dose-for-dose basis. CH4 Global’s own internal data indicates that the other halogenated compounds play an important part for the remaining two thirds. We also are aware that some of the other seaweed components can work synergistically with these halogenated actives to further combat methanogenesis in ruminants. You can only get this with whole seaweed. More results to come.

Economies of scale in aquaculture

Another key factor in making Asparagopsis-based products economically feasible for producers and farmers is the aquaculture methods. Some forms of Asparagopsis aquaculture are more resource intensive than others, depending on use of water, energy, land and marine areas, as well as built infrastructure.

The CH4 Global EcoPark is the vision we are implementing of a scalable commercial facility for growing and processing Asparagopsis. Like an eco-industrial park, the CH4 Global EcoPark is specially designed to optimize capital and operating costs while retaining control of growing conditions and leveraging waste-to-feed exchanges from co-located businesses. As such, this will provide a sustainable approach to grow Asparagopsis.

Our contained in-ground approach to scaled growing makes efficient use of energy and water, while also minimizing risk of invasion in areas where Asparagopsis is non-native. Replicating this blueprint at sites in key regions of the world, we minimize the transport costs of our products to partners.

Processing Asparagopsis efficiently

Once harvested, Asparagopsis must be treated with care to ensure it retains its beneficial bioactive content. CH4 Global is adopting a process for drying that minimizes the loss of bromoform and other actives by leveraging (and patenting) key knowledge from other industries. After applying our unique approach to cultivate seaweed with a high bromoform content, reducing loss on drying we are able to ship more final product from each CH4 Global EcoPark to serve more cows. In addition, our strategic partners are enabling us to apply best-in-class solutions for the most cost-effective and efficient production system.

Beyond Asparagopsis-as-commodity

Producing high-quality Asparagopsis in the most cost-effective and efficient way is an excellent start. Delivering a product that works for partners, and their livestock, is also a key requirement.

For ruminant animals, Asparagopsis can be a matter of taste. CH4 Global’s Methane Tamer™ products are Asparagopsis-based formulations that address animal uptake by properly accounting for palatability and format considerations with other important ingredients. Palatability is important considering that cows have about 25,000 taste buds (in comparison, humans have only about 4,000).

We have also ensured ease of handling with formats that work seamlessly in partners’ existing operations, such as beef feedlot operations. At the same time, we have addressed product stability (patents filed), minimizing the seaweed overages and guaranteeing efficacy at time of use.

The partnerships we have forged – and continue to forge – with large-scale producers are critical to gaining the insights that will enable CH4 Global to reduce costs and pass the savings on to our partners.

Why savvy commercialization matters

End-to-end innovation is needed to realize the tremendous promise of Asparagopsis as a methane-reduction solution for agriculture. Asparagopsis as a technology is one piece of a larger puzzle of global commercialization. At CH4 Global, we are moving each puzzle piece carefully into place so that we can achieve our goal of gigatonne-scale methane reduction and help bend the climate curve.

Finally, none of this works for scaled impact unless it provides a “good enough” financial profitability for large-scale infrastructure lenders. Unless you can achieve that without the use of rebates, all you’ll have is a local business for production and supply. This is one of the key reasons we are moving to large scale now as the innovations we’ve put in place for growing and production achieve the profile needed for large, global scaling.

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