Research and Development
Plentex is committed to an ongoing research and development plan focused on the use of microalgae and macroalgae and other protein sources in aquafeeds and stockfeeds
Plentex continues to monitor developments in the commercial scale growing of microalgae and macroalgae and the extraction of high value products.
Close partner relationships are being maintained with the South Australia Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the University of the Philippines and Tarlac Agricultural University (Philippines).
Plentex through PPI is engaged in two R&D projects (ProEn-K and Halymenia durvillei) in the Philippines which could have substantial commercial benefits for the Plentex group.
Plentex plans to play a significant role in climate-proofing activity by farming the red seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis on a substantial scale at suitable locations in the Philippines which when included in feed, reduces emissions of harmful greenhouse gas (methane) from cattle and other ruminant animals.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) methane emissions are responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperature since the Industrial Revolution. Earlier this year the IEA released its annual Global Methane Tracker which showed that in 2022, agriculture was the largest source of methane emissions for Australia and the World.
Several years ago Australian CSIRO ruminant nutritionist Nigel Tomkins and marine biologist Rocky De Nys and his team at James Cook University in Queensland found that the red seaweed - Asparagopsis, contains bromoform (CHBr3) that inhibits fermentation in the gut of ruminant animals (beef and dairy cattle/sheep/goats/buffaloes and camels).
As a feed supplement it can reduce methane emissions from cattle by 80% or more. Many seaweeds have a beneficial effect on methane production in animals, but Asparagopsis is the star performer insofar as it appears to be the only species to concentrate within it bromoform at significant levels.
Bromoform works by inhibiting the enzymes of gut microbes that live in the animal’s rumen (first stomach) that produce methane as waste during the digestion process. Ruminant animals expel methane in two ways: by belching and the decomposition of their manure.
Methane is a green house gas and a major contributor to global warming.
Methane (CH4) is of significant concern as it has a global warming effect vastly higher than carbon dioxide – by a factor of 28 to 34 times as warming as CO2 over a century. Methane emissions have accounted for 30% of global warming since the Industrial Revolution. Atmospheric levels of methane have climbed 150% over the past 200 years, whilst global CO2 levels have risen about 50%. If countries take action now, the earth’s temperature could drop almost immediately. Cutting methane will also promote health benefits. Methane is also an air pollutant that is responsible globally for 500,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of asthma related hospitalizations annually.
The two main species of Asparagopsis are Asparagopsis armata, the cold/temperate water (15-24 oC) species (which occurs naturally in Australia and New Zealand) and Asparagopsis taxiformis, the warm/tropical (19-29oC) water species which also occurs naturally in Australia and in the Philippines.
The Australian Government’s 2020 National Inventory Report published in 2022 estimated that the Australian Agriculture Sector produced 12.9% of net carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. Enteric fermentation (the digestive process which results in livestock burping) was responsible for 68.2% of these emissions underlining the fact that finding a way to reduce emissions from livestock will be significant in tackling climate change. These emissions also represent lost energy from feed of between 2% and 10%.
Trials have demonstrated that by adding just 3.5g – 9.5g of appropriately harvested and dried Asparagopsis seaweed per kg of dry feed matter lowers methane emissions by over 80%.
There is increasing worldwide focus on reducing methane emissions and at COP 26 UN Climate summit Meeting in Glasgow, Scotland on 2 November 2021, the US and the European Union, the two largest national gas consumers, launched the Global Methane Pledge.
The Global Methane Pledge is a joint agreement to slash global methane emissions by countries by 30% from 2020 levels in all industries, by 2030 and achieve “net zero” by 2050.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission said when jointly announcing with US President Joe Biden, the Global Methane Pledge in relation to reducing methane emissions that it is one of the most effective things we can do” to fight climate change and called the gas “the low hanging fruit”. “We cannot wait for 2050 – we have to cut emissions fast”.
More than 120 countries, which now include Australia (representing two-thirds of the global economy) have signed the pledge, but several top emitters, notably China, Russia and India have so far refused to sign up.
The Australian Government is actively supporting efforts to reduce methane emissions from livestock and has established a A$25 million fund known as the Methane Emissions Reduction in Livestock (MERiL) program, and has selected three projects to participate in the first round of MERiL grants.
Future Feed and Plentex
Several years ago the CSIRO, Meat and Livestock Australia and James Cook University jointly applied for patents covering the use of Asparagopsis as a feed supplement with the intent of commercialising Future Feed ™ for ruminant livestock.
In August 2020 the CSIRO established a company known as Future Feed Pty. Ltd. in which Australia’s richest man, Andrew (Twiggy) Forest’s private company Tattarang, Woolworths, GrainCorp and AGP became investors.
Future Feed has been granted an exclusive licence by the patent holders and is effectively global IP holder for the patented method for reducing total gas production and/or methane production in a ruminant animal (Ref. WO 2015109362; PCT/AU 2015/000030) and has embarked on a program to licence the solution to seaweed growers.
Future Feed is building on the scientific evidence, supporting the development of a hatchery program to ensure seaweed cultivators can rapidly scale up production, delivering peer-reviewed science, designing and completing animal trials, and developing certification standards and a trademark that delivers scientific credibility to the value chain.
Through a certified trademark (CTM) – “Farmed to Lower Methane” and the standards that underpin it, Future Feed can report reductions in green house gases and give consumers confidence that the meat and dairy products they are buying are better for the environment.
Future Feed maintains that it will be the only CTM service that comprehensively reports methane reduction through the use of Asparagopsis.
To this end:
- Certified Trade Marks
Future Feeds CTM will protect the interest of the consumer by ensuring product claims are in line with Future Feed’s standard.
- Standard Practices
Future Feed’s standard provides the guiding principles for the use of Asparagopsis. Future Feed will maintain a traceability program that underpins the calculations and claims.
- Off Sets, Credits and Claims
Future Feed’s standard will measure the greenhouse gas emissions via a digital auditable platform so participants can seek to trade in credits or off set their carbon emissions. It will also provide the data needed for industry reporting.
On 21 November 2021 Plentex was granted a Sub Licence by Future Feed Pty. Ltd. authorising it to use Future Feed’s technology, trademark and standard practices in Australia and the Philippines.
Plentex is one of only five Future Feed licence holders in Australia and ten in total globally. Plentex’s licence is an important conduit that will allow Plentex to sell its Asparagopsis product both in Australia and the Philippines.
Commercial Farming – the Plentex Opportunity
Currently there are two forms of Asparagopsis production methods, farming in the open sea and land based ponds and tanks. Worldwide large scale farming of Asparagopsis is still in its infancy, and there are many challenges. The race is now on to establish commercial scale Asparagopsis farming operations in Australia and elsewhere in the world.
A number of companies, some in collaboration with research organisations, are exploring the cultivation of Asparagopsis on shore and in-sea in Australia, as well as overseas including Vietnam based Greener Grazing, and Symbrosia and Blue Ocean Barns in Hawaii, and Volta Greentech in Sweden.
Additionally there is a global opportunity to produce and export concentrated Asparagopsis to major ruminant livestock producing countries. Australian cattle numbers form a small part of the global head count. In 2020 world cattle numbers were estimated to be about a billion head, of which Australia holds 22.8 million beef and 1.9 million dairy cattle, equating to about 2.5% of the global total. It is likely that regulations and carbon markets in the US and the EU will drive demand for methane-mitigation products resulting in strong competition for safe and reliable sources of Asparagopsis.
Food production has to increase by 60% by 2050 according to the FAO to feed exponential population growth, ensuring that with increasing affluence in developing countries that the demand for red meat and dairy products will increase significantly in turn driving an increase in the size of the global ruminant population.
Plentex believes that it will have a significant advantages by farming Asparagopsis taxiformis in the Philippines. These advantages include:
- access to skilled seaweed farmers
- abundant and low cost labour
- access to vast farming areas
- simpler regulation in relation to water rights.
According to the Philippine Government’s Seaweed Industry Roadmap 2022 – 2026, the seaweed farming industry in the Philippines produced 1.4 million metric tonnes of seaweed in 2019, making it the top commodity produced by the Philippine aquaculture sector. Currently over 60,000 hectares of shallow waters are farmed in the Philippines. The Philippines rank 4th in the world seaweed production behind China, Indonesia and South Korea in that order. It is estimated that approximately 1.2 million people are involved in and benefit from seaweed farming in the Philippines, an industry which provides jobs and improves the socio-economic status of coastal communities.
The area for expansion of the Philippines’s seaweed industry is huge, the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) has estimated an aggregate of 700,000 hectares of farmable area is available, of which only about 8% is currently being farmed.
Under its Future Feed Sub-Licence, Plentex is initially entitled to sell up to 20% of the Asparagopsis which it produces in the Philippines to customers in the Philippines such as feed lot operators and dairy farmers, with the balance to be exported to Australia.