Coast-Cow-Consumer Project

Suppression of enteric methane emissions (burps) from livestock has the potential to drastically reduce the global production of this greenhouse gas, which is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This project aims to develop a well-balanced seaweed additive for cattle feed that helps address this issue and offers major benefits to the environment, dairy and beef production, and the working waterfront.

Research has shown that certain tropical red seaweeds contain compounds that can influence digestion of macronutrients in livestock rumen and reduce methane production. However, there are major limitations to working with these particular seaweed species, such as costs to produce them and limited production capacity. At the request of algae and dairy producers in the region, we are screening Gulf of Maine seaweeds and microscopic algae with demonstrated, scalable aquaculture potential for their nutritional effect of influencing rumen fermentation in livestock. Our team of scientists is a unique, exciting mix of experts in algal physiology, microbiology, animal health, soil science, sociology, and economics. With support from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund and USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, we are tackling a problem of regional importance that can have impact on the global release of a major greenhouse gas.

Project Participants and Roles

We use state-of-the-art equipment and high-throughput protocols in our research. In the Bigelow Laboratory Analytical Facilities, we’ve developed in vitro batch assays that mimic a rumen for rapid comparisons of algal candidates and use mass spectrometry to look for promising compounds. Members of our team at the University of Vermont conduct further testing in continuous fermenters to understand how algae-based additives impact the dynamic rumen microbiome, which is responsible for the methane production. The best algal candidates, some of which come from Bigelow Laboratory’s National Center for Marine Microbiota and Algae collection, are being developed as additives to be used in holistic animal feeding trials with dairy cows at partnering research farms at University of New Hampshire, Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, and William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute. These studies explore the supplements’ nutritional value and subsequent effects on methane burps, milk quality, and milk yields of individual cows, as well as the implications to manure and soil health for grazing and conventional herds.

We are also conducting economic analyses with partners at Colby College, Syracuse University, and University of Vermont to explore pragmatic entry points into the supply chain and cost-benefits of using seaweed feed supplements for organic and conventional dairy in New England. In parallel, Clarkson University is using life cycle assessments to evaluate the cradle-to-grave impact on greenhouse gas emissions of the most promising seaweed additive candidates ¬– including impacts to manure quality and utility in anaerobic digestion or as fertilizer – to ensure the final products represent a net greenhouse gas reduction and true seafood-based solution.

Funding Support

  • Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund
  • USDA AFRI Sustainable Agriculture Systems Program
  • USDA AFRI Organic Research and Extension Initiative

For more information, please email Nichole Price and Charlotte Quigley at seafoodsolutions@bigelow.org


Research Team Members

Institutional project leads are in bold

NameAffiliationTitle
Nichole PriceBigelow Laboratory & Colby CollegeDirector, Center for Seafood Solutions
Stephen ArcherBigelow LaboratoryDirector, Bigelow Laboratory Analytical Services
David EmersonBigelow LaboratorySenior Research Scientist
José A. Fernández RobledoBigelow LaboratorySenior Research Scientist
Ben TwiningBigelow LaboratoryVP Education
Mike LomasBigelow LaboratoryDirector, Center for Algal Innovations
Nick RecordBigelow LaboratorySenior Research Scientist
Charlotte QuigleyBigelow LaboratoryAssistant Director, Center for Seafood Solutions
Athanasios FoukisBigelow LaboratoryPostdoctoral Researcher
Kevin PosmanBigelow LaboratorySenior Research Associate
Carmen CartisanoBigelow LaboratoryResearch Associate
Gabriella IaconoBigelow LaboratoryResearch Technician
Brittney HonischBigelow LaboratoryResearch Associate
Vishaan NurseyBigelow LaboratoryResearch Technician
Shane RogersClarkson UniversityAssociate Professor
Susan PowersClarkson UniversityDirector, Institute for Sustainable Environment
Stefan GrimbergClarkson UniversityProfessor
Jingjing WuClarkson UniversityPostdoctoral Researcher
Avery ParadisClarkson UniversityGraduate Student, Ph.D.
Michael DonihueColby CollegeProfessor
Jennifer MeredithColby CollegeAssistant Professor
Denise BruesewitzColby CollegeAssociate Professor
Patrick AmesCornell Cooperative ExtensionExecutive Director
Rick WelshSyracuse UniversityProfessor
Andre BritoUniversity of New HampshireAssociate Professor
Alexandra ContostaUniversity of New HampshireResearch Assistant Professor
Kyle ArndtUniversity of New HampshirePostdoctoral Researcher
Diana Carolina Reyes GomezUniversity of New HampshireGraduate Student, Ph.D.
Sabrina GreenwoodUniversity of VermontAssociate Professor
David ConnerUniversity of VermontProfessor
Ashley DriemelUniversity of VermontGraduate Student, M.S.
Rick GrantW. H. Miner InstitutePresident
Katie BallardW. H. Miner InstituteDirector, Research
Sarah MorrisonW. H. Miner InstituteResearch Scientist
David HerringWolfe’s Neck Center for Ag. and Env.Executive Director
Dorn CoxWolfe’s Neck Center for Ag. and Env.Director, Research
Leah PuroWolfe’s Neck Center for Ag. and Env.Agricultural Research Coordinator