Locus Animal Nutrition, a new operating company of Locus Fermentation Solutions, has developed a methane-reducing microbial feed additive for cattle that led to it being named one of 15 top agtech startups by the Rabobank FoodBytes! Pitch discovery program.
The direct-fed microbial products show the ability to balance the bovine gut biosphere, resulting in better feed efficiency while at the same time reducing the amount of methane in cow burps and farts. The product, which is now in prototype development with leading university research partners, is expected to be on the market by the first quarter of 2022.
Locus AN managing director, Keith Heidecorn, says research indicates that the microbial additive can help the bovine digestive system to turn volatile fatty acids into energy for milk or meat production instead of methane. Researchers at the University of California-Davis have tested the company’s non-GMO, direct-fed products and found that one combination resulted in a 68% reduction in methane and an individual strain by itself reduced emissions by 78%.
The feed efficiency is important to all beef and dairy producers and the methane reduction is especially important to producers in California who face a legal mandate to reduce emissions. California has established specific goals to reduce methane by 40% from 2013 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050.
The U.S. dairy industry has announced efforts to address climate change and is aiming for carbon neutral or better by 2050.
In addition to UC-Davis, Heidecorn says Locus AN is in trial discussions with Harvard, Ohio State and other universities such as an international university partner in the Netherlands. They expect the research to move into field trials with producers once it is proven at the university level.
He says plans are to work with several producers to finalize usage details and develop recommendations for how to add the microbial additive to feed for optimal results.
Heidecorn says there are some other feed additives that have been tried for reducing methane emissions, but none have proved scalable.
“There are seaweed projects that show potential, but are hampered by production costs and scalability,” he says. “Other products have proved problematic because they can produce an off-taste in the milk from treated cows.”
Locus AN expects their product to be very cost effective and easy to produce in plentiful supplies.
“We are using a patented modular fermentation process to produce the microorganisms at scale at less than 10% of the cost of traditional manufacturing processes,” he says. “Our Locus Fermentation Solutions division has a lot of experience and we are confident we can produce the microbes at the volume and costs needed for commercialization.
“We have seen a lot of interest and we’re [homing] in on the details. We believe we are onto something big for the industry, something that can make a real difference.”
There were more than 340 applications for the FoodBytes! Virtual Pitch this year, which was narrowed down to the top 15 AgTech, Foodtech and CPG companies.
“Participating in Rabobank’s FoodBytes! Program has been absolutely invaluable in making instrumental connections and giving us an opportunity to share the unique value proposition for the climate crisis and producer bottom lines,” Heidecorn says.
To learn more about Locus AN’s work in livestock methane reductions, visit locusanimalnutrition.com.