Investors affiliated with Western Australia's Forrest family and Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) have hit the gas on an Australian climate tech company whose anti-methanogenic supplements can be fed to livestock to reduce emissions.
Less than a year after its May 2022 launch and with early-stage overseas expansion already underway since November, Perth-based Rumin8 has secured US$12 million ($17.2 million) in a phase 2 seed round led by Dr Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s agri-food business Harvest Road Group and BEV, taking the total seed money raised to US$25 million ($35 million).
Existing shareholders US-based Prelude Ventures and the Aware Super Sentient WA Growth Fund also topped up their holdings in the round, with the funds allocated for commercial trials in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the USA, as well as product brand and pilot manufacturing plant development as the group gallops towards commercialisation.
Co-founded by Matt Callahan, Elaine Darby, David Messina, Dr Cameron Scadding and Dr Stewart Washer, Rumin8 now has a financial supporter - in the form of Harvest Road - with 1.5 million hectares of cattle stations at its disposal across Western Australia.
For BEV, as was the case for Prelude back in July, the investment marks its first in an Australian company.
"The demand for sustainable protein has never been more apparent, which is why BEV is keenly interested in reducing methane emissions from beef and dairy," says Carmichael Roberts, who co-leads the investment committee at BEV.
"Rumin8 offers a low cost, scalable toolbox that has already proven to be effective in reducing emissions. Our team will support Rumin8 in working closely with farmers to expand the reach of this solution globally."
Harvest Road Group CEO Paul Slaughter said Rumin8 complements the group’s other investments in reducing the impact of agriculture on climate change. Harvest Road was one of several corporate backers of the CSIRO's FutureFeed project and also has farms for oysters - known for their regenerative effects on marine ecosystems - in WA.
"We are actively seeking solutions to reduce methane emissions in livestock supply chains, with Harvest Road supporting multiple emerging technologies focussed on methane reduction in ruminant animals," Slaughter says.
"Feed additives are an important pillar in our strategy to reduce our carbon footprint and support our ambition to help solve the global methane emissions challenge.
"We believe Rumin8’s new technology has broad ranging application across the livestock sector and offers a promising solution for industry."
Rumin8 managing director David Messina points to the considerable support Rumin8 has received from climate funds, noting the Phase 2 seed round was oversubscribed.
"We have been very pleased with the reception we have received from climate impact funds around the world. There is a genuine desire to fund solutions to enteric methane emissions from livestock and fortunately for Rumin8, they can see the benefits of our technology," he says.
"Our laboratory results continue to yield excellent results, our animal trials are reflecting the laboratory results, and the financial modelling we are undertaking is indicating we will be able to supply our products at a commercial price point.
"Prior to the Phase 2 seed funding round, we were progressing a number of key work streams sequentially. Now we have the resources to progress them in parallel, speeding up the road to commercialisation."
Rumin8's product is derived from naturally occurring compounds that have anti-methanogenic properties, although instead of harvesting and extracting them from plants, the company is able to reproduce them in a highly efficient, low cost, scalable, and high-quality process.
The company's most advanced product reproduces the bioactive contained in native red seaweed (Asparagopsis) - the same algae FutureFeed has licensed to another Perth-based company, Seastock. The active ingredient found in this type of seaweed, known as bromoform, disrupts the enzymes of gut microbes that live in an animal’s stomach and produce methane gas as waste during digestion.
This compound has been shown to reduce methane production in livestock rumen by up to 95 per cent, whether in liquid, solid or slow-release dose formats.
Rumin8 announced in early November its first foray abroad with its methane-reducing feed additive in Brazil after signing an agreement with the Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) to undertake an extensive herd-based trial in a pasture-dominant grazing system, involving 63 performance cattle. This added to existing trials with the Universities of Central Queensland, New England and Murdoch (WA)
"Brazil possesses the largest beef cattle herd in the world, so is an important potential market for Rumin8. For that reason, we have opted for a pastured-based trial to mirror the predominant beef production system in Brazil, but will extend to a feedlot-based trial at the conclusion of the initial phase," Messina said at the time.
Just three weeks later, the company announced the opening of an office in San Francisco, California in order to gain access to the world's second-largest cattle herd by country. Last week Rumin8 continued this momentum by commencing two safety and efficacy trials of its supplement in New Zealand with both beef and dairy cattle.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, livestock worldwide account for approximately 6 per cent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
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