A game-changing new research program involving seaweed being included in livestock fodder could lead to a $140 million new industry in South Australia within three years and potentially support up to 1,200 local jobs.
The Marshall Liberal Government has partnered with CH4 South Australia and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) to research production of commercial quantities of red seaweed, which when included in feed has been found to significantly reduce methane emissions created through a cow's digestive process.
If commercial production systems and processes can be established, CH4 estimates red seaweed production could be worth $140 million a year within three years. Revenue from processing the seaweed could add a further $250 million per year to the economy and support 1,200 South Australian jobs.
Acting Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Dan van Holst Pellekaan said innovative stock feed options are always welcome and especially so in times of drought.
“Investing in research to determine the viability of this project will mean South Australia is well positioned to become a centre of excellence for seaweed production in Australia if the benefits of adding seaweed to livestock fodder can be realised," said Acting Minister van Holst Pellekaan.
“If there are opportunities to cost-effectively reduce ruminant methane production by converting it into energy to drive enhanced animal productivity, this represents a win-win.
“There is a significant opportunity to be first to market and a world leader in this potentially $140 million new industry.
“The seaweed market reaches far beyond feeding cattle, as seaweed can be used as a sustainable food source for humans and in eco-friendly bio-plastics, fertilizer, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. There's strong potential for this to be a key growth sector for our state.
“The livestock farming sector is the third-largest source of greenhouse gas globally after the energy and transport sectors, so this work could be a game-changer for the environment as well.
As the first commercial operator in seaweed production in the state, CH4 is working with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) to develop trials.
CH4 co-founder Dr Steve Meller, who grew up in South Australia and now lives in Silicon Valley, said he was excited for the potential for this project to give back to South Australia.
“The potential to develop a multi-billion dollar future-proofed aquaculture industry is a unique opportunity for South Australia and this will move the needle on global climate change," said Dr Meller.
The FRDC, South Australian Government and CH4 have committed $175,000 to support this research for testing initial production systems and enabling research to optimise performance of seaweed at the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre in West Beach, South Australia.