Swedish startup secures additional funding, looks to optimize production of seaweed additive to tackle methane emissions in cattle

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Petmal
© GettyImages/Petmal

Related tags methane emissions Sweden cows

Swedish startup, Volta Greentech, which is focused on using seaweed to reduce methane emissions in cattle by up to 80%, has just closed a SEK 17 million (€1.7m) funding round to further expand its pilot production, and to prepare for the setting up of a large-scale factory.

Participants in the latest funding round included investor, Claes Dinkelspiel, founder of internet bank Nordnet, Peter Carlsson, CEO at Swedish battery manufacturing company, Northvolt, along with one of Volta's customers in the retail sector.

Volta is looking to commercialize a product derived from the red algae, Asparagopsis.

When we last spoke to Fredrik Åkerman, co-founder and CEO of Volta, in June 2020, the team had just moved into a pilot facility, a closed land-based system, in Lysekil, on the Swedish west coast, where it was looking to develop prototypes for how to grow the seaweed cost-effectively at scale.

Cultivation, drying 

Today, he told us about the progress the startup has made since then.

"The past 10 months have seen us focus on ways to optimize the growing of Asparagopsis, and we believe we now have a really effective cultivation technology."

Volta’s closed pilot system ensures it can retain constant production and quality over time, regardless of environmental factors such as water quality or weather. "The approach also enables drastically improved efficiency and productivity over time by continuous iterations of the cultivation recipe in our laboratory,"​ said Åkerman.

In terms of more downstream processes such as drying methods for the seaweed, the team is continuing to determine the best approach. “It is still a work in progress. There are a lot of ways to do it, we are trying to find the technology that results in the most even quality, the highest levels of bromoform and one that is also cost effective,”​ he remarked.

And the actual application of the final feed additive, how it would be delivered to cows, is also under review. “It depends on the farm, of course, and where in the world the product is being used. Here in Sweden, we have seen that it works very well with granulates, mixed into the total mixed rations (TMR).”

The commercial model the startup intends to roll out is one where the upstream part of the supply chain, the dairy companies and the retail brands would cover the cost of a methane emissions busting feed additive. “The industry in Sweden is really looking to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG), and there is such pressure on the brands and the big dairy companies from consumers in this respect.”  

Commercial trials 

Volta recently carried out a commercial pilot on a beef farm in Sweden, to test the application of the product in feed. “It was very successful. But it was low volume. So, right now, we are trying to increase capacity of the pilot facility so that, after the summer, we can carry out commercial trials on a few more beef farms here.”

The pilot unit is limited in size, it only has capacity to produce volumes for 500 to 1,000 animals. “We will use the same blueprint and learnings from that unit to scale up to commercial production, potentially 20 times larger in terms of output.”

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