GLOBAL- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has extended a significant grant of US$4.5 million to BiomEdit, an emerging biotechnology company in animal health.
The grant is dedicated to accelerating the research and development of innovative microbiome-based solutions aimed at reducing methane emissions and improving feed efficiency for beef and dairy cattle.
This groundbreaking innovation has the potential to significantly reduce agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve the livelihoods of small-scale cattle producers and pastoralists in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In these regions, cattle are crucial to generating income for communities.
Cattle, the primary agricultural source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) worldwide, naturally produce methane during their digestive process. Methane is a significant contributor to climate change, and a single cow emits approximately 220 pounds of methane per year.
According to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), livestock contribute up to 80% of the agricultural gross domestic product in developing countries.
They also play a vital role in providing nutrition and livelihoods to small-scale producers and pastoral communities, as well as in finding ways to reduce methane emissions in native cattle within their local environments.
At the same time, increasing productivity is crucial for achieving environmental and economic sustainability, especially in Africa and South Asia.
BiomEdit’s innovative solutions will target the rumen microbiome, which is a microbial community in a cow’s digestive tract. These microorganisms play a crucial role in digestion, with specific microbes responsible for methane production.
The company will adopt a multifaceted approach utilizing natural and synthetic probiotics and bioactives to reduce methane emissions effectively.
Additionally, these solutions will enhance cattle performance by inhibiting energy losses through methanogenesis and increasing the production of volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which serve as the primary source of energy in the rumen.
Potential avenues for implementing these innovations include feed additives, supplements, veterinary biologics, and pharmaceuticals.
“To make a meaningful impact on climate change, there must be a simultaneous benefit of reducing methane emissions in cattle plus redirecting the spare energy, which would otherwise go to creating methane, to increasing feed efficiency so everyone can benefit from nutritious meat and milk, no matter where they are in the world. The answer is found through the microbiome and synthetic biology,” Aaron Schacht, CEO of BiomEdit, stated, emphasizing the significance of this approach.
“We are grateful for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s belief in our methane reduction R&D program. We are excited to partner with them to enable both large- and small-scale producers to benefit from the innovations,” Schacht added.
While various strategies for methane reduction are under development or already available, the direct inhibition of methanogens has shown the most significant effect in mitigating enteric methane emissions.
However, a challenge with many existing products is that farmers must invest additional resources to achieve methane emission reduction and enhanced feed efficiency, often without seeing a sufficient return on their investment.
BiomEdit’s focus on developing methane mitigation products aims to improve production efficiency and make this approach financially viable for farmers. By doing so, it encourages their active participation in reducing methane emissions and increasing the sustainability of cattle farming.