The Government has announced its support for a project that could substantially reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from cattle.

The Cawthron Institute will receive $100,000 from the Government's Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund to turn a native red seaweed (Asparagopsis armata) in to a greenhouse gas-busting cattle feed supplement for domestic and global markets.

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Burp-free cow feed drives seaweed science

The announcement was made as part of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor's visit to Nelson's Cawthron Aquaculture Park.

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"If successful, this project could be a game-changer for farmers here and around the world" O'Connor said.

In previous trials Asparagopsis had proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in livestock by up to 80 per cent. Other products typically provide reductions of between 10 and 20 per cent said O'Connor.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Nelson's Cawthron Aquaculture Park. Photo / Supplied
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Nelson's Cawthron Aquaculture Park. Photo / Supplied

Australian research estimated that if just 10 per cent of global ruminant producers adopted Asparagopsis as an additive to feed their livestock, it would have the same impact for our climate as removing 50 million cars from the world's roads.

"Farmers know better than most about the effects of climate change and many are innovating so that they can drive down on-farm emissions. They need technology like this to help them get there though".

Sustainable agribusiness and transitioning to a low emissions economy was a major focus for the Coalition Government said O'Connor.

"It's why we established the $40 million a year SFFF fund last year – to invest in projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits for all Kiwis.

"Aquaculture is a growth industry for this country and has the potential to play a more significant role in our economy. It's currently worth $600 million a year and employs over 3000 people".

The Cawthron project could lay the foundations for a new high-value industry, along with the jobs that go with it. There was also export potential and on-farm economic benefits, including price premiums for milk and meat said O'Connor.

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"We want to be the most productive, sustainable country in the world. Projects like this will contribute to New Zealand's reputation in sustainable and innovative aquaculture and agriculture".

Asparagopsis armata. Photo / Supplied
Asparagopsis armata. Photo / Supplied

About Asparagopsis armata

Asparagopsis armata is a native red seaweed, which grows abundantly throughout New Zealand waters.

Research in Australia has shown that the seaweed, once harvested and dried can be used as supplementary feed for dairy cows, cattle, sheep and goats.

Research has shown the potential to reduce methane emissions from dairy cows and livestock by up to 80 per cent. The active ingredient, bromoform, is the key to emission reductions.

While cows themselves do not produce methane, they produce a group of microbes called methanogens which live in the rumen (the first stomach in the digestive system) and produce methane from hydrogen and carbon dioxide as the feed breaks down.

This particular seaweed contains chemicals that have been found to reduce the microbes in the cows' stomachs that cause them to burp when they eat grass.