An Australian livestock feed supplement made from seaweed to substantially reduce methane emissions in beef and dairy cattle has won the largest monetary reward on the global food stage.
The CSIRO-developed FutureFeed, commercialised this year with backing from Woolworths, beef and mining billionaire Andrew Forrest and other investors, has collected one of four The Food Planet Prizes, worth $1.3 million.
The award recognises initiatives, organisations and individuals working to secure the world's food supply while fostering a healthy and resilient biosphere.
The Curt Bergfors Foundation launched The Food Planet Prize this year, presenting four awards, each worth $US1m, for efforts to reshape the food system.
Selected from a competitive field of over 650 nominations from all over the world, FutureFeed was awarded the prize for its benefits to the climate and environment.
It was also recognised as having the potential to improve profits and livelihoods by opening up a new global industry in seaweed farming.
Food system impact
To qualify the contenders had to rate as "impactful" and contributing to a sustainable and resilient food system.
Their solutions must also be implementable reasonably fast and on a large, preferably global, scale.
FutureFeed is made based on asparagopsis seaweed.
When just a handful of the seaweed is fed to cattle, it not only drastically reduces the greenhouse gas contribution from agriculture but there is also a strong indication it increases livestock productivity.
FutureFeed was developed in partnership with Meat and Livestock Australia funding and James Cook University, which collaborated with the University of California, Davis, and Penn State University in the US to do dairy and beef feedlot trials.
In August CSIRO established the FutureFeed company to take the livestock feed to market with support funding from an AGP Sustainable Real Assets-Sparklabs Cultiv8 Joint Venture, GrainCorp, the Forrest family's investment trust Harvest Road and Woolworths.
CSIRO scientist and FutureFeed director, Dr Michael Battaglia, said the prestigious award's cash prize would be used to help meet the goal of delivering the world's first ultralow-carbon beef and dairy by mid-2021.
Investing in seaweed farming
"We plan to use part of the prize to establish a fund to enhance the participation of aboriginal and other first nations people around the world in asparagopsis supply chains," Dr Battaglia said.
"Already in Australia we have agreements between the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation involving the Narrunga Nation Aboriginal peoples, and a seaweed growing company CH4 with the intent to develop commercial scale asparagopsis cultivation and processing to generate maximum benefit for the Narrunga people."
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FutureFeed chief scientist Dr Rob Kinley said the remainder of the prizemoney would be used to advance research and development on how best to deliver FutureFeed to livestock grazing freely in rangeland systems.
"Livestock produce up to 18 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, mainly in the form of methane," explained Dr Kinley.
"We now have a solution that is a simple plug and play into existing feeding systems to reduce emissions and help farmers and producers create more food and build new and more sustainable businesses and enterprises."
About the prize
The 2020 Food Planet Prize jury included world-leading scientists, policymakers and entrepreneurs, including its chairman and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Professor Johan Rockstrom.
The prize is funded by the Curt Bergfors Foundation which was established last year to challenge the perils current systems of food production and distribution pose to the climate and biosphere.
Curt Bergfors is a renowned Swedish hospitality entrepreneur best known as the founder, majority owner, and chairman of Sweden's leading quick service restaurant chain MAX'S Burgers.