Across 1800 hectares of land and marine space at Triabunna on the east coast of Tasmania, Sea Forest has been scaling up production of its livestock supplement made from the Australian seaweed asparagopsis.
Feeding the red seaweed extract to livestock can slash methane emissions by up to 98 per cent.
“We’ve been able to take what was a concept that we’ve been able to demonstrate at small scale into a large industrial operation,” Sea Forest boss Sam Elsom said.
“It’s also about commercialising Australian science,” he said.
In 2020 the asparagopsis food supplement was patented and CSIRO scientists have been working with Meat & Livestock Australia and James Cook University to develop the product.
Since then nine licences have been issued to seaweed growers to supply asparagopsis to the livestock market, and the product has been commercially available to cattle producers since 2022.
For the past 18 months Sea Forest has been working with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to “scale up” their product to industrial sized processing.
“They have the technology solution to a very big problem,” the centre’s Jens Goennemann said.
“Through the commercialisation process, Sea Forest has developed a local product with global potential, while generating jobs and supporting global moves to reduce emissions,” Dr Goennemann said.
In last year’s budget, the Federal Government committed $8 million to assist in the commercialisation of asparagopsis, and to promote its use in livestock feed.
One of Sea Forest’s clients is the burger chain Grill’d, whose restaurants started selling the burger ‘Gamechanger’ earlier this year, which is produced from asparagopsis-fed cattle.
At full capacity, the company’s Tasmanian plant will be able to produce up to four tonnes of the product an hour.
Mr Elsom said 10,000 cattle were currently eating his supplement, and that with enough biomass he could help feed the entire Australian dairy and beef herd.
But the seaweed manufacturer said farmers need to be incentivised to buy the supplements.
“Farmers have no way of obtaining any form of financial incentives,” Mr Elsom said.
“We’ve been working with some industry participants at a very small scale, but to create real impact we need large-scale participation.”
“It doesn’t reduce methane unless a cow eats it.”
In 2015 the dairy industry set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 30 per cent by 2030.
Sea Forest aims to produce 7000 tonnes a year of asparagopsis by 2028 — enough to mitigate the equivalent of 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to removing 300,000 cars from the world’s roads.