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Product, Service & Design Innovation
This 'SeaFeed' Could Be a Game-Changing Solution to Livestock Emissions

Australian startup Sea Forest’s seaweed-based feed supplements significantly reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock.

In recent years, the surge in global methane emissions — primarily from ruminant livestock including cows, sheep and goats; which emit methane through their digestive processes — has greatly exacerbated climate change. Animal agriculture alone is responsible for a staggering 14.5 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, with methane proving over 25 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. This dual threat necessitates innovative solutions that can enable us to meet the escalating global demand for food while averting further environmental degradation.

Enter Sea Forest — an Australian startup committed to revolutionizing agricultural practices and mitigating the adverse impact of livestock emissions. Its solution lies in SeaFeed™ — a livestock feed additive scientifically proven to reduce methane production by up to 80 percent.

“We are heading towards a climate crisis at an exponential rate. Irreversible change is occurring, and we have a finite amount of time to act. We can all play a role in doing something about it,” Sea Forest CEO and co-founder Sam Elsom told Sustainable Brands®.

Formerly a fashion designer, Elsom’s path took a turn in 2017 after he witnessed a talk by Professor Tim Flannery — one of Australia's leading writers on climate change — which included a section from his book, Sunlight and Seaweed: An Argument for How to Feed, Power and Clean Up the World. Inspired, Elsom delved into the scientific realm of seaweed cultivation; and his research led him to Asparagopsis — a common seaweed native to the pristine waters of Tasmania.

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“Tim’s presentation was an absolute eye-opener for me. He presented data in a simple way that explained just how fast global warming was occurring and why climate action mattered,” Elsom says. “His call to action was that people with entrepreneurial skills should be getting behind climate solutions such as seaweed, but at that point not enough people were scaling them. That was the lightbulb moment for me — the potential for enormous climate impact driven by such a simple solution.”

Seaweed has witnessed a surge in popularity in recent years, with material innovators including Notpla, B’ZEOS, Sway and Loliware showcasing the potential of seaweed-based alternatives to single-use plastics. Beyond plastic alternatives, companies including the Montauk Seaweed Supply Company are utilizing seaweed to create healthy fertilizers and biostimulant products — which not only enhance plant growth but also play a crucial role in sequestering nitrogen and carbon from the atmosphere, underlining the multifaceted benefits of seaweed in enhancing climate resilience.

At the heart of Sea Forest's solution is Asparagopsis — a red seaweed that captures carbon from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. The bioactives within Asparagopsis, when incorporated in minimal quantities as a feed additive, remarkably diminish the production of methane from livestock — the bioactives inhibit the enzymes that are responsible for the formation of methane in the digestive tract of ruminants, thereby significantly reducing methane emissions.

Sea Forest says SeaFeed can be seamlessly integrated into a variety of mixed rations for feedlot cattle or take a variety of forms including pellets, loose mixes, lick blocks or molasses-based supplements. Its versatility allows for straightforward inclusion with no impact on the flavor and quality of beef or dairy products. Depending on a herd’s daily feed intake, incorporating SeaFeed can be as uncomplicated as making a minor addition to the existing oil ration.

To date, Sea Forest has produced more than one million doses of SeaFeed; and it currently has the capacity to abate methane emissions from 15 percent of Australia's cattle — substantially reducing the country’s emissions. But the sompany says scaling this solution to 15 percent of the world's cattle population could reduce three gigatonnes of emissions globally.

“What we have is a solution that can be applied globally. Feed it to the world’s 1 billion cattle — then, all of a sudden we are making huge inroads into the ability to avert a climate catastrophe and begin to repair the planet,” Elsom asserts. “That’s what makes what we’re doing so exciting — Australian science and innovation with the potential for global climate impact and the sustainability of world agriculture.”

SeaFeed is currently produced in Triabunna, on the southeast coast of Tasmania. Sea Forest has invested more than $20 million in its infrastructure to develop and scale up its operations. The company now has one of the largest (1,800 hectares) marine leases in the southern hemisphere. At full capacity, this expansive facility can produce 7,000 tonnes of Asparagopsis annually — a quantity sufficient to feed over 300,000 head of cattle, which would abate annual emissions equivalent to about 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (one tonne of methane can considered to be equivalent to 28 to 36 tonnes of CO2, if looking at its impact over 100 years, according to the International Energy Agency).

Thanks to this potential, Sea Forest has begun to attract significant international attention. In 2023, it was shortlisted for the Earthshot Prize; it has also attracted a succession of influential visitors to its Tasmanian marine farm — including the US Ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy.

Sea Forest has launched pilots with a number of forward-thinking farmers, brands and retailers. It has partnered with New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra to quantify SeaFeed’s methane-reducing potential; and in February 2023, Grill’d Healthy Burgers — Australia’s most progressive burger chain — launched its low-methane ‘Gamechanger’ burger options made with SeaFeed-fed beef. But the product’s benefits could extend far beyond food: Luxury menswear brand M.J. Bale and Sea Forest have partnered to produce the world’s first carbon-neutral wool.

Meanwhile, Sea Forest has also embarked on its first commercial-scale project, supplying SeaFeed to premium feedlot-beef producer Rangers Valley; and continues innovation in science, research, and product development through active partnerships with Australian and international universities.

“The climate may be in crisis and the scale of the task not to be underestimated; but our perspective has always been that there are positive steps we can all take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming,” Elsom states. “Using SeaFeed to reduce methane emissions in livestock will make farming and food production cleaner and more sustainable. That’s good for farmers, good for consumers, and good for the planet.”