Feed from the Sea

The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s feed rations.

A new startup out of Sweden, Volta Greentech, is raising money ($2.07 million so far) to construct a facility that will produce seaweed with hopes to reduce methane emissions from Swedish cattle.

Algae philosophy: While the talk of using seaweed as cow feed isn’t necessarily a new concept, there’s a specific strain of algae showing a lot of potential in reducing cows’ carbon footprint.

The red Asparagopsis taxiformis variety has shown an impressive reduction in cattle methane emissions – as much as 80% – by blocking enzymes that produce methane in the rumen.

Low-carbon cows: The beef and dairy sectors are saying, “We sea you. And we like you.” They’re hoping to utilize the seaweed feed supplement, which would allow them to market their products as “low carbon.”

The seaweed factory: The seaweed production facility will commercially launch the supplement Volta Seafeed later this year, the first time it’ll be produced at scale.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Research

Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you a stronger agricultural system, and that’s basically the same thing.

Two studies, one by The Breakthrough Institute and one by the Farm Journal Foundation and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), are speaking the same language: $$$ talks, especially when it comes to publicly funded research and development (R&D) for agriculture.

It takes two to make it rain: Both private and public investments are critical in the food system. And in the AFBF study, it was noted that U.S. private agricultural R&D funding appears to be increasing while U.S. public funding needs a raise. For example, USDA agricultural agency budgets have been relatively flat at around $4.2 billion in 2020 compared with $4.1 billion in 2010.

Money is the root: Not of all evil, but of great advancements in agriculture. With the world population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, food production will need to outkick its coverage. More dollars of public funding R&D would help in a lot of ways.

Some examples of what pumped up funding could do:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 100 million tons — or one-sixth of agriculture’s current total emissions.
  • Lower global food prices by 8%.
  • Improve supply chain resilience (ahem, COVID-19).


Prickly Pear Delight

Cash crops might be getting a new family member in the coming years, and they might want to prep for the big, warm hug from cousin cacti.

According to researchers at the University of Nevada, there’s a notion the low-maintenance cactus pear crop could provide fuel and food in places previously inhospitable to sustainable crops.

Prickly potential: The five-year-long research has shown the prickly pear cactus uses up to 80% less water than other crops to produce fruit. While crops like soybeans, corn, and wheat are a little pricklier about moisture, cactus plants are better equipped to withstand drought. With 42% of land area around the world classified as semi-arid or arid, the cactus’ potential could be sharp.

Carbon catchers: The cactus pear also works to succ(ulent) carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in a sustainable way.

Growing the cactus in areas that aren’t suitable for other crops can also help expand bioenergy production. And it can be used for human and livestock consumptionCraving prickly pear cactus jelly yet?

Sticking to it: Further research is in the works to learn about a stunting disease and look at which genetic traits provide the greatest production.

Not Your Average Milk-Making Method

Scientists in the Land Down Under may soon be putting your morning glass of milk under a lot of pressure.

The rundown: Naturo, an Australia-based company, just received the go-ahead to begin processing milk using the Haelen technique–an “alternative treatment to pasteurization of raw milk.”

The new method allows the milk to chillax under extreme pressure…killing harmful pathogens without turning up the heat.

To give you some context:

  • 161˚F for 15 seconds: The industry standard for traditional milk pasteurization.
  • 284˚F for 2 seconds: The industry standard for Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT) milk processing.

The best thing since pasteurization: Naturo founder and CEO Jeff Hastings is calling Haelen “the biggest breakthrough in the global milk industry since pasteurization in 1864.”

Since it’s not subjected to traditional heat treatment, researchers tout that the milk will have higher levels of B-vitamins and essential enzymes while maintaining its natural flavor.

Oh, and this: With Haelen killing more germs than pasteurization and UHT, the milk will stay fresh longer…like, way longer. It’ll stay delicious in the fridge for at least two months.

Where this goes: Naturo says Queenslanders can expect to get their first glasses of the “Wholey Milk Company” brand early this year, with plans to expand to the international market in 2022.

Ain’t It Peachy

Some fruitful new findings just gave peach producers a lot to look forward to.

Researchers at Boyce Thompson Institute discovered several powerful peach genes. Using 2,700 spots in the genome of 260 wild peach varieties, the scientists found links to 51 environmental factors sending breeders off to the races.

With the science in hand, new peach varieties can be developed to withstand stress in the form of cold, drought, or even high altitude UV radiation.

California’s ears just perked up: The #1 peach-producing state, California, provides 56% of the U.S. fresh peach crop and 96% of the country’s processed peaches.

New varieties also mean expanded growing regions, which might stretch up to the Pacific Northwest, where frost and cold snaps previously limited peach output.

Peaches time to shine: While most genetics-focused research and varietal development happens in commodity crops like corn, soybeans, and rice, peaches and other fruit crops are usually left in the dust. But now, the 24.5 million tons of global peach production can expand its vision and reduce waste.

Cheers to China’s case study: Researchers looked to the country as a model as wild peaches have adapted to lowland acres or colder climates. The U.S. crop will benefit from the environmental observations in the Asian nation.

What’s Going On With Oysters…

Oystermen are tossing their shellfish overboard…and they’re not just shucking around.

In a seven-state program coordinated by various stakeholders, the “Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration” (SOAR) initiative is purchasing oysters from 100 farms and chucking them back into the ocean.

SOAR hopes that these mollusks will flex their mussels and restore twenty coastal reefs — cleaning water, mitigating flooding, and creating wild oyster habitats.

And the oystermen are all about it.

COVID’s reckoning: With the pandemic shutting down many raw oyster bars and other eateries, oyster farmers were left with an empty half-shell.

In New Jersey, SOAR will pay the aquaculturists 80% of the wholesale market price if they harvest the oysters from their cages and dump them onto the reefs.

Where this goes: By year-end, SOAR will spend $2 million purchasing 5 million oysters, helping the oystermen, and ensuring a promising future for the industry.