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Bill Gates investment aims to tackle cow burps

Bill Gates is backing a firm that’s working to reduce the harmful effects of cow burps.

The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft has invested in Australian climate technology startup Rumin8, which is developing a dietary supplement that stops cows from burping out methane — a damaging greenhouse gas impacting climate change.

Due to the way their digestive systems function, cows, along with other animals such as goats and deer, belch out a lot of methane. Research suggests that in the U.S. for example, cattle are the main contributor to methane emissions. With that in mind, we could certainly do with fewer animal emissions.

Bill Gates is trying to help. His support comes via Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), an organization he set up in 2015 to back cutting-edge companies working on green projects. A recent funding round led by BEV secured $12 million for Perth-based Rumin8, enabling it to continue its development work prior to commercializing its supplement.

Rumin8’s supplement is a synthetic version of red seaweed, a foodstuff that’s been found to prevent the creation of methane in a cow’s digestive system. It works by inhibiting a specific enzyme involved in the production of methane as a cow digests its food.

Earlier research using real seaweed produced promising results, but the cows rejected the salty taste, leading some scientists to direct their attention toward more palatable supplements.

“We have been very pleased with the reception we have received from climate impact funds around the world,” Rumin8 managing director David Messina said in a statement, adding, “Our laboratory results continue to yield excellent results, our animal trials are reflecting the laboratory results, and the financial modeling we are undertaking is indicating we will be able to supply our products at a commercial price point.”

Rumin8 isn’t the first company to explore the idea of using seaweed — or a synthetic version of it — to reduce cow burps. Hawaii-based Symbrosia, for example, has been working on a similar idea since 2018, though it uses actual seaweed (with molasses added to eliminate the saltiness) rather than a supplement.

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