Research project: seaweed set to reduce greenhouse gas from burping dairy cows
13. November 2019

Research project: seaweed set to reduce greenhouse gas from burping dairy cows

The new Danish project Climate Feed – with the participation of DLG and Vilofoss, among others – aims to develop feed supplement with seaweed, reducing cows’ methane emissions by up to 30%.

Brown, green and red algae could become Danish cows’ favourite food. The new Danish 4-year research project, called Climate Feed, is set to establish whether Danish farmers could benefit from using a special feed supplement made of seaweed, which can reduce the development of methane gas in the cows’ stomachs. Among the project participants are DLG, Vilofoss and SEGES.

Farmers open to change

The Danish Technological Institute is heading the research project, supported by Innovation Fund Denmark. Project participants include researchers from the Copenhagen University and Aarhus University. DLG and Vilofoss are key partners, and the dairy company Naturmælk is also one of the contributors.

DLG and Vilofoss see a fine potential. “We aim at reducing methane emissions by 30%, but who knows, we might even exceed this. The way I see it, farmers in Denmark are very accepting to change, so it is important that we conduct research in this field,” says Product Manager at DLG, Cattle Feed, Birgitte Marie Løvendahl Raun, who also holds a PhD in animal nutrition.

The 30% reduction target matches very well the Danish Agriculture & Food Council’s vision to make food production climate-neutral by 2050.

“This is one way of creating even more climate-efficient cows. And with a successful project, we will have a fantastic and innovative outcome. Furthermore, I am certain that farmers in and outside Denmark will become very anxious to use the solution, if it’s also financially viable,” says the CEO of Danish Agriculture & Food Council, Anne Arhnung.

Already today, Danish farmers use the feed as a means of reducing the cows’ methane emissions. But, none of the solutions available today cut emissions by as much as 30%. Therefore, the seaweed supplement would be a major step forward. Technically, the antioxidants and tannins in seaweed hinder the development of methane.

Facts on the research project Climate Feed

  • The aim is to develop methods for cultivating, harvesting and processing seaweed into a finished product, such as powder or pellets, for farmers to add to the feed
  • The product must have a well-proven and stable content of the active substances that reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from cows, without having a negative impact on milk yield and flavour/quality of the milk
  • The seaweed is set to be processed in Denmark by Vilofoss and DLG, among others
  • In cooperation with Aarhus University, the company Dansk Tang will take part in the selection of top-quality seaweed types and cultivation methods

Facts on cattle farming’s impact on the climate

  • The agricultural emission of CO2 and greenhouse gases make up 20% of Denmark’s total CO2 emissions
  • A large part of the emissions is caused by the ruminants, each burping 500-700 litres methane every day
  • According to international surveys (Lesschen et al. 2011), the Danish milk production is the most climate-friendly in Europe

The participants in Climate Feed 

Technological Institute: in charge of the project and testing of the seaweed product in selected herds.
Aarhus University: will determine the type of seaweed and develop methods of cultivation in the seas surrounding the Nordic countries. In addition, Aarhus University will carry out trials at laboratory and pilot levels, as well as investigate the environmental impact and financial aspect.
DLG: will produce the finalised vitamin/mineral/seaweed product and distribute via the factories located in and outside Europe.
Vilofoss: will develop and produce the methane-reducing seaweed ingredients. Vilofoss, a DLG Group subsidiary, to be in charge of turning the seaweed ingredients into a finished product. 
Ocean Rainforest, The Faroe Islands: will produce the seaweed. Today, Ocean Rainforest produces large quantities for food for humans.
Danish Seaweed Odsherred, Denmark: supplies seaweed for restaurants and has extensive knowledge about types of seaweed and cultivation options. 
DryingMate: will head the drying of the seaweed.
Naturmælk (Danish dairy): will sell the new seaweed milk to supermarkets and end-consumers.
SEGES (part of Danish Agriculture & Food Council): will head the project knowledge-sharing.
University of Waikato, New Zealand: will help screen and document the types of seaweed selected.