Bill Gates fund invests in start-up tackling cow burps in climate fight

Seaweed dietary supplement aims to reduce methane emissions from livestock

Bill Gates has been an outspoken critic of the agriculture industry. Ruel Pableo / The National
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Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund chaired by billionaire Bill Gates, has invested in a start-up that is tackling the challenge of reducing methane emissions from cow burps.

Rumin8, an Australian climate technology company, is working on a dietary supplement featuring seaweed that it says is “highly efficient, low-cost and scalable” and will reduce the emissions from livestock.

The start-up, which has raised $12 million in the second phase of its seed funding, said the amount will be spent on commercial trials in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the US as well as product brand and pilot manufacturing plant development.

Microsoft co-founder Mr Gates' BEV led the funding, Rumin8 said. It added that the phase 2 seed round was over-subscribed.

BEV's investors include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma, Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder.

“The demand for sustainable protein has never been more apparent, which is why BEV is keenly interested in reducing methane emissions from beef and dairy,” said Carmichael Roberts, co-leader of the investment committee at BEV.

“Rumin8 offers a low cost, scalable toolbox that has already proven to be effective in reducing emissions. Our team will support Rumin8 in working closely with farmers to expand the reach of this solution globally.”

Studies have shown that seaweed can reduce the amount of methane in cow burps.

Livestock account for almost one third of man-made emissions of methane, the biggest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.

Rumin8 aims to “decarbonise 100 million cattle by 2030”, which is equivalent to 40 per cent of Australia’s total annual carbon emissions.

It is doing this by harnessing the active ingredient from seaweed that targets the methanogenic pathways in the rumen, or paunch, of livestock.

The start-up said its trials are consistently demonstrating 85 per cent methane reduction, which equates to two tonnes of carbon emissions removed from the air, per cow, per year.

“Our laboratory results continue to yield excellent results, our animal trials are reflecting the laboratory results, and the financial modelling we are undertaking is indicating we will be able to supply our products at a commercial price point,” said Rumin8 managing director David Messina.

By reducing ruminant methane, cows can convert “otherwise lost energy into increased productivity for the animal to create a compelling value proposition for farmers”, the company said.

Updated: January 24, 2023, 8:26 AM