An exciting new venture could see seaweed grown in waters off Kangaroo Island reduce cow burps and farts around the globe.
US-based company CH4 Global this week announced its intention to grow and harvest seaweed in South Australia with Kangaroo Island earmarked as one of three initial sites to kick-start their million-dollar climate project.
The world-first initiative, led by CH4 Global, will see the company process a species of seaweed as a supplement solution offered to dairy and beef cows to dramatically reduce methane emissions.
The work aims to focus on "urgently impacting" climate change within the next decade.
CH4 SA general manager Dr Adam Main explained the company was employing different strategies at the three locations.
At Port Lincoln the company was working with various aquaculture companies, as that town was already an industry hub with existing support infrastructure.
While on the Yorke Peninsula it was working with Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation to set up a new aquaculture operation on land it controlled.
Kangaroo Island meanwhile has CH4 SA entering into a partnership with American River oyster farmer Ken Rowe of Kangaroo Island Shellfish.
Mr Rowe said CH4's plans fit perfectly with his concept and business model of "positive impact aquaculture", which entailed his operation having a net social, environmental and financial benefit on the local community.
Both CH4 and Kangaroo Island Shellfish are advocating for integrated multi-trophic aquaculture or 3D ocean farming where multiple species are grown together.
Dr Main said the company intended to grow a specific species of seaweed - Asparagopsis armata - on rope lines suspended out in open water on existing aquaculture leases to begin with.
CH4 long term would like to expand its operations to have more seaweed lines in even more open water, he said, adding his background was in the Tasmanian salmon farm industry.
"We don't know exactly where but our research and development will look at what areas are suitable and the seaweed itself will tell us where it likes to grow," he said.
Mr Rowe said the Asparagopsis seaweed was known to grow in Kangaroo Island waters and possibly even on his oyster leases at American River.
KI Shellfish is already growing its native flat or Angasi oysters for commercial harvest and one concept would be to grow seaweed suspended over native Angasi oysters on the bottom.
Mr Rowe is also excited about the prospects of one of The Nature Conservancy's native oyster reefs coming to KI soon and said would relish being guardian of the new reef.
He also wants to expand his aquaculture operation to have land-based components of education, tourism and research.
CH4 meanwhile says the seaweed project has the potential to create significant employment opportunities for all three of their first harvest sites.
Dr Main said about 20 hectares of seaweed lines would create enough product to justify a drying operation on KI, which would create further employment.
Funding of $3 million will allow the company to scale up its operations in South Australia and New Zealand, and begin the aquaculture and processing of Asparagopsis armata.
Dr Main said recently raised capital would mean delivering on the company's aim of developing trial sites in regional SA this year before commercial production begins.
He acknowledged much more investment would be needed to make the SA project a reality but this was already being sought.
Importantly, Dr Main said the environmental issues the company addresses with its technology was extensive.
"There are 1.5 billion cows in the world. Each year over the next two decades the greenhouse gas (GHG) output for those 1.5 billion cows is greater than the GHG output from China - the largest GHG emitter by country in the world.
"When added to feed, less than 100g per day, the processed seaweed can reduce methane emissions from cattle by up to 90 per cent," he said.
The initial focus will address the market for dairy and beef cattle in Australia, New Zealand and California, which is expected to exceed $1 billion by 2030.
In Australia, CH4 Global has identified South Australia as the primary market, with the state set to become the centre of a new industry projected to be worth at least USD$200 million within the next five years.
"In addition to the huge environmental impact, the emergence of a seaweed industry in SA will deliver significant economic development and employment opportunities in regional SA with hundreds of jobs created over the next two to three years," Dr Main explained.
"The development of a South Australian seaweed industry has been seen to be advantageous for some time and South Australia has a number of competitive advantages when it comes to this type of ocean farming."
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Meanwhile, CH4 Global was founded 18 months ago by an international team of senior scientists, proven technology entrepreneurs, and business executives from Australia, New Zealand and the US.
It already has a presence in South Australia and is supported by a grant from the state government's Landing Pad scheme.
The company is noted as the only fully integrated provider of Asparagopsis-based livestock supplement products designed and structured to specifically deliver this new product with urgency.
Furthermore, the company has been working with SA research body SARDI for over a year on scaling Asparagopsis aquaculture. This work was supported by the Fisheries Research Development Corporation.
Funding has been provided by a select group of family offices and private investors from around the world and includes non-dilutive capital from leading government innovation groups.