Chemical firm sees strong demand for methane-reducing feed additive

Amsterdam | Reuters — Dutch specialty chemicals company DSM is expecting strong demand for a feed additive which limits the amount of methane burped into the air by cows, its contribution to the global fight against climate change.

Methane has a much larger effect on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2) and reducing methane emissions could buy time to confront the much bigger challenge of cutting the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

“We see a lot of demand already, from food producers and farmers,” DSM’s Clean Cow program director Mark van Nieuwland told Reuters in an interview, even though the launch of the additive, Bovaer, is still more than a year away.

“Large (food) companies have clear climate targets, and they need farms to change to meet those. Also consumers are increasing pressure on farmers and many farmers themselves want to limit emissions.”

Swiss food firm Nestle this month said it wanted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, while French dairy maker Danone has said it wants to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030.

Cows constantly burp up methane but DSM says including Bovaer in a cow’s diet could cut these emissions by at least 30 per cent.

“Giving this to only three cows will have the same effect as taking one car off the road,” Van Nieuwland said.

DSM expects to launch Bovaer in Europe either late next year or in early 2021. It is currently waiting for authorization from the European Union to label it as an environmentally beneficial product.

The company estimates that Bovaer has a potential global market value of one to two billion euros (C$1.5 billion to $2.9 billion) and aims to expand into other markets soon after the European launch.

DSM has made a profitable switch from bulk chemicals to sustainable food ingredients and materials, growing sales of animal feed products to around 30 per cent of its nine billion euros in total sales last year.

“We have to deal with methane in the next five to 10 years if we want to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees,” Van Nieuwland said.

Bovaer cuts methane emissions when mixed into a cow’s feed by inhibiting an enzyme in the digestion process which normally causes the release of the gas.

After 10 years of research the Dutch company says it has dozens of global peer-reviewed studies backing its claims and showing no effect on the health of cows or the milk they deliver.

DSM on Monday said it had teamed up with Dutch scientists and animal feed producers to measure the effects of Bovaer in different dosages and different diets.

The trial will run from November until February 2020, and the results are expected to be applicable throughout Europe, DSM said.

“This can have a real impact and we want to make it as big as possible,” Van Nieuwland said. “The faster we move, the better.”

— Reporting for Reuters by Bart Meijer.

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