Whilst naturally-grown seaweed is all the rage in the world of feed additives for cows to reduce their methane gas emissions, Sydney-based decarbonisation startup Number 8 Bio is tackling the problem in a unique way, using bioengineering to modify yeast to produce seaweed molecules instead.
Today the company announced a pre-seed round was secured to raise $1.8 million in funding to produce its feed additive that it claims is a safe, scalable and incredibly productive way to reduce methane emissions.
The CSIRO currently has the global intellectual property for the use of Asparagopsis seaweed as a livestock feed, and in parallel a venture capital group affiliated with the same entity is backing Number 8 Bio's technology that is chasing the same goal but through a different means.
Created by the CSIRO, Main Sequence Ventures was a participant in the startup's pre-seed round, alongside Munich-based Possible Ventures, UNSW Founders, and Bioplatforms Australia.
"The need for sustainable solutions is an urgent global priority," says Number 8 Bio CEO Dr Tom Williams, who co-founded the company with Dr Alex Carpenter.
"As the world’s population grows, so too is the demand for agricultural commodities. Agriculture’s deep connections to the world economy, human societies and biodiversity make it one of the most important frontiers of innovation. We need a safe, consistent and resilient solution,"
The capital will be invested in accelerating the company’s R&D, expanding its lab’s bioengineering capabilities and paving the way for commercialisation.
“Securing this pre-seed funding allows us to harness the power of biology to reduce emissions and enhance efficiency in the agriculture sector. Today, we’re $1.8 million closer to a future where farmers can simultaneously increase their productivity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slash operational costs,” Williams adds.
Main Sequence partner Gabrielle Munzer says Number 8 Bio perfectly captures the synthetic biology approach of taking inspiration from nature with the natural potential of seaweed, and combining it with the benefits of industrially scalable yeasts.
"In the race towards net zero, creating a decarbonised agriculture industry requires a new approach to addressing the challenge," she says.
"The potential of Number 8 Bio and its ambitious plans paves a path for decarbonising existing agricultural systems and creating a sustainable future for food production."
UNSW Founders director of entrepreneurship David Burt describes the company as a fantastic example of the enormous benefits that bioengineering will unlock for worldwide challenges like how we decarbonise agriculture.
"We backed Number 8 Bio through our SynBio 10x Accelerator because their solution is vital to solving for livestock methane emissions at global scale," he says.
Bioplatforms Australia chief executive Andrew Gilbert notes agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
"Bioengineering microbes in food additives for cattle gives farmers a solution that strikes the right balance between sustainability, output and environmental impact," he says.
"Number 8 Bio’s unique solution, which leverages biology to solve climate problems, has enormous potential to be the backbone of environmentally friendly farming practices," adds Possible Ventures general partner Chris Hitchen.
"The future of food production has challenges and we need a resilient solution. To truly make an impact and create a win-win for farmers and consumers, we must take an industry-wide approach that looks at options that are easy to implement, scalable and improve sector productivity."
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