A Swedish company is building the world’s largest algae factory to create emission-reducing seaweed feed for cattle.
But how do you reduce greenhouse gases from the world’s most polluting animals? 4 percent of the world’s methane emissions currently come from cattle, which is twice as high as the entire aviation industry combined.
While cutting down ko pruttar may not be the sexiest science, a reduction in the problem would make a major obstacle to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and help dairy and beef farming become much more sustainable.
“There are more than a billion cows on the planet, and emissions from them continue to increase. Despite this, there are no widespread solutions for reducing emissions, and research in the area is far too slow, says Fredrik Åkerman, co-founder and CEO.
But how do you stop a cow leaving gas? Volta Greentech think it has the answer.
The team is run by an international group of researchers and climate innovators and has created ‘Volta Seafeed’, a supplement made from the red seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis.
When fed to cows in a daily dose of only 100 grams, the feed’s emissions of enteric methane (gas yeast in the intestines of cows, sheep and goats) decrease by up to 80 percent.
How does methane from seaweed hardened cow feed decrease?
The production of methane through a natural fermentation process takes place in the rumen (the largest of the cow’s four stomachs). When they digest their food, hydrogen and carbon dioxide are released, and a natural enzyme then combines the two gases and creates methane in the process.
However, feeding a cow 100 grams of seaweed feed naturally suppresses this enzyme and methane emissions are reduced as a result.
The feed has undergone several rounds of international tests over the past six years, and Volta Greentech is now working in collaboration with Sweden’s largest feed company, Lantmännen.
“The methane-reducing effect has been proven to a great extent, and we now want to investigate how this affects other parameters. We want to find out if the cows eat the feed to the same extent, if the milk production is affected in terms of yield and composition “, says Cecilia Lindahl, product developer at Lantmännen.
“So far, the results look promising.”
Scale up production
With over a billion cows in the world, scaling up the production of seaweed feed is the highest priority for the Swedish company. Several investment rounds mean that it has been possible to open its first factory “Volta Factory 1” in Lysekil, which will be followed in 2022 by “Volta Factory 2”, which is described as the world’s largest seaweed factory.
The company aims to address Sweden’s cattle first, with the hope that it can expand internationally in the future.
Focusing on sustainable production methods for the seaweed, which is grown in vertical bioreactors to maximize production, is also a top priority.
How to produce durable seaweed
“By building a closed system, we ensure that we maintain constant production and quality over time, regardless of environmental factors such as water quality or weather,” says
Åkerman about the factory’s production methods. “The approach also enables drastically improved efficiency and productivity over time through continuous iterations of the culture recipe in our laboratory.”
The factory is also run sustainably, with waste energy from local industries used in production.
This, together with the automation of the processes, ensures that there is a stable seaweed growth 365 days a year, with a daily growth rate of 10 percent.