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The challenge

Methane emissions from livestock accelerate climate change and reduce productivity

The agricultural livestock industry produces approximately 14 per cent of anthropogenic global greenhouse emissions, mostly via methane emission. Methane is a by-product of anerobic fermentation in the rumens of cattle, sheep and other agricultural animals.

Cattle may be transported to or from a feedlot as part of a supply chain.

Livestock methane emissions not only contribute to global warming but also reduces animal productivity to grow meat and wool. The ability to suppress these emissions would therefore help to mitigate climate change and also increase animal productivity.

Our response

Finding alternative sources of bromoform to supress methane production

Bromoform is a naturally occurring bioactive compound produced by seaweed. It has been found to dramatically decrease the production of methane by livestock when used as a feed additive. However, it is unlikely that sufficient seaweed quantities could be produced to saturate the demands of the global livestock industry.

In response we have been developing a cost effective, alternative source of bromoform production that can be produced en masse to saturate the livestock industry demand.

The results

Synthetic biology provides a solution

Using synthetic biology, we have produced new strains of baker’s yeast that can make bromoform. Baker’s yeast is routinely grown at industrial scale in large fermentation vessels. This makes it an ideal organism for this project to potentially fulfil large industry demand. Having successfully produced bromoform in yeast cultures we are now maximising the production of this bioactive compound by designing new biosynthetic pathways in yeast and manipulating growth conditions.

Another challenge being addressed is to prevent bromoform escaping from these yeast cultures, as bromoform is a volatile chemical. This further research is being undertaken to develop bromoform producing yeast as a viable animal feed supplement for methane emission reduction in the livestock industry.

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