Researchers want to mass-farm a native Queensland seaweed, which stops cows burping methane, in a bid to help cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
A previous study by the CSIRO discovered adding a small amount of Asparagopsis to the cow’s diet reduced the amount of the gas the animal produced by up to 99 per cent.
It found the chemicals in the algae diminished the microbes in cows stomachs which caused them to pass air.
Associate Professor Nicholas Paul from the University of the Sunshine Coast said if enough of the algae was grown it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australia by 10 per cent.
“When added to cow feed at less than 2 per cent of the dry matter this particular seaweed completely knocks out methane,” he said.
Associate Professor Paul said the next step was to find a way to start “scaling up” production.
“Up until now people have been collecting the seaweed from nature, so wild harvest. We have the demand but we don’t have the supply,” he said.
Researchers have begun conducting trials to answer “biological questions” about farming the seaweed including determining which strains would reproduce effectively.
“We want, in the perfect world, the fastest growing species that we can find but also the one that produces most of the active ingredient,” Associate Professor Paul said.
Project scientist Ana Wegner said the challenge was to find the perfect growing conditions to move crops from the laboratory to outdoor aquaculture tanks.
“We know the chemical composition of Asparagopsis and we know the chemical compounds … so now we want to maximise the concentration of that chemical so we can use less seaweed for the same effect,” she said.