Investment fund AgriZeroNZ has invested $4.1 million in Hoofprint Biome, a United States startup that has developed a probiotic and natural enzyme that shows an 80% reduction in methane in laboratory testing.
The funding will allow the company to shift to the next stage of development, which is proof-of-concept animal trials.
Good Growth Capital and Ponderosa Ventures, a member of Galvanize Climate Solutions, have also invested.
AgriZeroNZ executive director Wayne McNee said the probiotic is still in the early stages of development, but has enormous potential for New Zealand’s pastoral-based farming systems.
Intended to be ingested as a supplement in a small dose, the Hoofprint probiotic aims to reduce enteric methane emissions by over 80% while simultaneously increasing milk and meat yield by over 5%.
It could be possibly fed to sheep or cattle once a day or once or twice a week. On a dairy farm, it could be added to an in-shed feeding system or potentially even be administered as a drench.
“It looks as if it could have quite a long method of action,” McNee said.
“They have done a lot of research at the moment in artificial rumen trials and the next phase, which we are helping to fund, is to have small-scale animal trials.”
“We met their team in the States in May and we spent quite a bit of time talking to them since then about the technology and have done an independent science review. We’re very optimistic about it.”
McNee said the trials will begin immediately and will take place in the US. These will take time as scientists test the probiotic at different rates while assessing other aspects, such as animal welfare.
“This funding should enable them to do all of the next phase of work that they need to do.”
McNee said they are developing a range of different probiotics, some of which are gene-edited; these would require legislative changes in NZ if they are to be used here.
Hoofprint Biome, a spin-out of North Carolina State University, was founded by Dr Kathryn Polkoff and Dr Scott Collins in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The startup was established in February to accelerate the development of tools and technology to help farmers rapidly reduce their emissions, while maintaining farm productivity and profitability.
The pair saw the unique potential for microbiome engineering to benefit ruminant agriculture and tackle the climate crisis.
They had discovered enzymes that naturally reduce rumen methane emissions. Delivery of these patent-pending enzymes with probiotics will result in long-lasting efficacy.
Polkoff said they are excited to develop a solution for Kiwi farmers.
“We’re bringing next-gen probiotics to ruminant agriculture in our mission to cut methane emissions while improving animal health and profitability.
“This investment offers a unique opportunity for Hoofprint to partner with New Zealand farmers, who have been leaders in sustainable agriculture, and to tackle the climate crisis together.”
McNee said farmers need to know there are options being worked on to help them lower their emissions.
“There’s a lot of negativity around climate taxes but there’s a lot of investment going on, not just by us but by other funders around the world looking for solutions for farmers.”
The end goal is that by the time farmers have to pay these taxes, there should be tools farmers can use to mitigate or remove these taxes altogether, he said.
This is AgriZeroNZ’s fourth investment since being established in February.