Let Them Eat Seaweed! The Promise of Innovation

by Judy Nagel, Envision board

What if an issue endemic to northeast Wisconsin turned out to be a substantial contributor to global warming – and then someone turned it on its head and converted the problem into a whole new industry? Our area has done it before – all it needs is an altruistic entrepreneur.

The issue is about cows and burping. Yes, 30% of global warming is due to methane release, and one-third of that methane comes from livestock. In a single year one cow emits as much methane as a small car, and the reason is simple: Cows are gassy due to the roughage they eat, which results in lots of burping. The burping emits methane.  Worldwide, 1.5 billion cows are eating, burping and creating methane – and a good portion of cows live in our area.

Researchers have found, however, that asparagopsis, a type of seaweed, can allow those cows to chow down without burping, nearly eliminating livestock methane emissions. Even better, if a mere two-tenths of one percent of a cow’s daily ration included such seaweed, maximum benefit could be achieved! Read interesting details from Salon: Can we grow enough seaweed to help cows fight climate change?

Using the environmental research resources of the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, access to the bay, carbon tax credits, and investment capital from Titletown Tech, could we develop a local suitable seaweed to harvest? We might create, at the same time, a new sustainable industry for the agricultural base of our economy!