The commercial viability for asparagopsis continues to grow in Australia, with government investments to expand the production of its feed supplement.
The federal government has contributed $3.8 million to allow seaweed producer Sea Forest to expand its commercial-scale production of the red seaweed.
Sea Forest chief executive Sam Elsom said it was a good sign governments were starting to recognise the seaweed's potential.
"We are currently conducting industry trials of Sea Forest's SeaFeed products with a range of beef, dairy and wool companies across Australia and New Zealand, including Fonterra, Australian Agricultural Company and Stockyard," Mr Elsom said.
The investment was part of the Securing Raw Materials program, supporting regional businesses to research and develop locally sourced raw materials.
It also comes after Sea Forest announced a ground-breaking trial with Australian Agricultural Company Ltd's Wagyu cattle.
The research is being coordinated by the University of New England (UNE at its feedlot research facility in Tullimba in Northern NSW and will quantify the impact of the seaweed on meat quality and safety.
The 300-day trial, being funded by Meat and Livestock Australia, is led by Fran Cowley, a researcher and lecturer in ruminant nutrition and livestock production systems at UNE.
Dr Cowley said that while previous studies on feedlot cattle have shown confirmed methane emission reductions when fed asparagopsis for 150 days or fewer and there is now a need to assess the safety and product integrity of the feed over longer periods.
"The long duration of feeding, and the higher expected meat quality from these cattle gives us a really good opportunity to answer the questions on the persistence of CH 4 mitigation and long-term effects on animal health and product quality," Dr Cowley said.
Mr Elsom said the longer trial would confirm the seaweed's massive potential for the red meat industry.
"We welcome UNE's rigorous testing protocols to ensure the efficacy of our Asparagopsis in cutting the methane emissions of livestock, which make up 14pc of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," he said.
The Australian Seaweed Institute's Blueprint, released in 2020, projected the seaweed industry to be worth $1.5 billion by 2040 potentially.
A key finding from the blueprint said that the "development of asparagopsis cultivation at scale is the single biggest opportunity for rapid industry growth and optimising social and environmental outcomes."
Asparagopsis is an innovative methane-reducing seaweed that, when added to dry feed for cattle and sheep, could reduce emissions by 80 per cent.
Agricultural scientist Rob Kinley worked with the CSIRO, James Cook University and Meat & Livestock Australia to test more than 30 seaweeds and found asparagopsis produced the most effective result.
This led the CSIRO, along with partners, to establish FutureFeed, a company that licenses seaweed growers worldwide to supply asparagopsis for livestock.
FutureFeed spokesperson Eve Fawlkner said while trials focusing on methane reduction are now complete with comprehensive data, there are still replicated trials to be conducted mid-year to collect statistically relevant data on productivity.
But she said seaweed sees "huge energy and initiatives" ahead, with further potential for more research, marketing and regulatory pathways.
"We have interest from lots of parties here in Australia and around the world to become licensees," Ms Fawlkner said.
"There's so much demand for the product, and we know that there's a lot of pressure on the red meat, dairy and wool industries to improve their environmental footprints.
"It is an all natural solution that significantly and drastically lower that methane output during production."
Currently, there are three licensees in Australia, two in the US, one in Canada and one in the European Union.
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