Mitigating Methane from Sheep with Red Seaweed

by Mariya Abdulkaf/The Verge

Methane is a gas that has 28 times the warming capacity of carbon dioxide. Farming can produce a lot of CO₂ and methane gas — two of the largest threats in greenhouse gases.

Diana Zlotnikov is a farmer in New York with plenty of burping sheep who release methane as a byproduct of their digestive system. Five years ago, Diana started her farm with regenerative agriculture principles in mind — she implemented practices that would not only reduce the carbon footprint of her livestock but would help negate it. Diana has designed her farm to act as a carbon sink that can pull carbon from the atmosphere and trap it in the soil.

But reducing the methane gas coming from her sheep was a much more difficult problem. Based on some research, she tried a mixture of feeds (garlic, legumes, alfalfa), but nothing worked.

One day her daughter Nicole, a sophomore in high school, came home from school in a researching frenzy. She had recently learned how methane gas was contributing to global warming and was determined to find a way to reduce the methane emissions caused by their farm. She came across asparagopsis taxiformis, a type of red seaweed, as an effective solution. It is not yet commercially available, but there are some people trying to change that.

Chemist and entrepreneur Alexia Akbay is one of them. Her company, Symbrosia, produces a red seaweed-based supplement that could reduce livestock methane production dramatically, but what will it take to get it to small farmers like Diana and Nicole? Check out the video to see how Alexia and her team are domesticating a new seaweed species to tackle climate change — one sheep at a time.

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