A US-based company has announced its plans to grow and harvest seaweed across South Australia with Port Lincoln earmarked as one of three initial sites to kick-start their million-dollar climate project.
The world-first initiative, led by CH4 Global, will see the company process species of seaweed as a supplement solution offered to dairy and beef cows to dramatically reduce methane emissions.
The work aims to focus on "urgently impacting" climate change within the next decade.
The company says the project has the potential to create "huge" employment opportunities for all three of their first harvest sites, located at Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island and Yorke Peninsula.
CH4 SA general manager Dr Adam Main said each trial site, including the one in Port Lincoln would be more than one hectare in size.
"The three sites will then begin commercial production in 2021, with over 100 hectares projected to be farmed," he said.
"CH4 projects the size of the seaweed farms will then grow year-on-year from 100 to 2000 hectares in the next five years.
"The initial trial phase will see between 25 to 50 part-time workers involved across the three trial projects."
Port Lincoln mayor Brad Flaherty said he welcomed the news of this development for Port Lincoln and South Australia.
"Any opportunity for the City of Port Lincoln and the Eyre Peninsula to gain new businesses and employment is welcomed with open arms," he said.
"It sounds like a great opportunity for the peninsula and the rest of the state."
Port Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Tourism chairperson Jack Ritchie said this was a great development in terms of jobs and connection with aquaculture, as well as positive benefits for the planet.
"It's an incredible outcome to have it here," he said.
Dr Main said when added to feed, less than 100g per day, the processed seaweed could reduce methane emissions from cattle by up to 90 per cent. The initial focus will be on dairy and beef cattle in Australia, New Zealand and California.
"There are 1.5 billion cows in the world. Each year over the next two decades the greenhouse gas (GHG) output for those 1.5 billion cows is greater than the GHG output from China - the largest GHG emitter by country in the world," he said.
"When added to feed, less than 100g per day, the processed seaweed can reduce methane emissions from cattle by up to 90 per cent."
In Australia, CH4 Global has identified South Australia as the primary market, with the state set to become the centre of a new industry projected to be worth at least USD$200 million within the next five years.
"In addition to the huge environmental impact, the emergence of a seaweed industry in SA will deliver significant economic development and employment opportunities in regional SA with hundreds of jobs created over the next two to three years," Dr Main said.
"The development of a South Australian seaweed industry has been seen to be advantageous for some time and South Australia has a number of competitive advantages when it comes to this type of ocean farming."
Meanwhile, CH4 Global was founded 18 months ago by an international team of senior scientists, proven technology entrepreneurs, and business executives from Australia, New Zealand and the US.
It already has a presence in South Australia and is supported by a grant from the state government's Landing Pad scheme.
The company is noted as the only fully integrated provider of Asparagopsis-based livestock supplement products designed and structured to specifically deliver this new product with urgency.
Furthermore, the company has been working with SARDI for over a year on scaling Asparagopsis aquaculture. This work was supported by the Fisheries Research Development Corporation.
Funding has been provided by a select group of family offices and private investors from around the world and includes non-dilutive capital from leading government innovation groups.