Optimizing production and final product stability of Asparagopsis taxiformis as a novel feed material for livestock methane reduction
Award last edited on: 12/23/2023

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Solicitation Topic Code
Principal Investigator
Alexia Akbay

Company Information

Symbrosia Inc

73-4460 Queen Ka’ahumanu Suite 111
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
   (724) 549-4400
Location: Single
Congr. District: 02
County: Hawaii

Phase I

Contract Number: 2016197
Start Date: 12/1/2020    Completed: 2/28/2022
Phase I year
Phase I Amount
The broader impact of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is to improve the growth and processing parameters of a methane-reducing seaweed feed additive for ruminant livestock (i.e,. cattle). Globally, livestock methane emissions contribute up to 10% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Recent feed trials have determined that a special red tropical seaweed can help reduce the amount of methane produced by ruminants by over 98%. The proposed project will advance this as a feed additive at scale by exploring three novel solutions for natural lighting optimization in land-based cultivation systems, profiling and integrating aquaculture wastewater (AWW) as a circular nutrient stream, and deploying an alternative processing method to the energy-intensive industry standard. These growth processes can likely be applied to algae production for other uses, such as food, while drying innovations are expected to be broadly applicable in tropical climates. The proposed SBIR Phase I project will build on work to grow Hawaiian Asparagopsis taxiformis in land-based systems and optimize for both yield and concentration of desired metabolites. Diurnal changes in solar position and irradiance, along with occlusion caused by algae self-shading, result in photosynthetic inefficiencies. AWW contains large amounts of waste nitrogen and phosphorus; only 20-30% of nitrogen from the fish feed is retained in fish biomass. The integration of AWW will recover some of these nutrients and avoid downstream consequences of pollution, such as eutrophication. While drying material is important for the production of a shelf-stable product, existing technologies are either energy-intensive or perform poorly at retaining critical compounds in seaweed tissue. The project will test proposed solutions to this quandary, as well as contamination and strain development. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Phase II

Contract Number: 2309372
Start Date: 10/1/2023    Completed: 9/30/2025
Phase II year
Phase II Amount
The broader impact of this Small Business Research (SBIR) Phase II project is to reduce methane production in the ruminant livestock industry via the commercial production of Asparagopsis taxiformis for inclusion in cattle feed. There are currently 1.5 billion head of cattle on earth, which contribute significantly to greenhouse emissions via methane release during growth. It has been demonstrated that the inclusion of A. taxiformis in cattle feed can drive down methane emissions by more than 80%. However, production capabilities of A. taxiformis lag behind the market need. A conservative estimate for biomass production necessary to mitigate methane emissions of 1.5 billion cattle is 264 metric tons of fresh algae biomass daily. The goal of this project is to optimize outdoor cultivation practices is necessary to meet this production goal. Additionally, pelletization of the final product will broaden implementation capacity of this novel livestock feed additive from small farmers to industrial feedlots, further increasing the impact of the product by incorporating this novel feed into standard ranching practices. This project pursues development of novel cultivation procedures of A. taxiformis in scaled production operations. Currently, production approaches focus on low-light, energy intensive, and difficult to scale indoor cultivation. This project focuses on producing biomass in automated outdoor cultivation systems, thus overcoming limitations of scaling and associated energy costs of indoor cultivation. The development of alternative outdoor cultivation systems specific to the species? needs will improve yield in production to meet industry needs. Additionally, the industry standard of milling final feed products results in a lower mass:volume ratio for shipment, driving shipping costs up. Milled material is problematic for product viability due to moisture absorption from increased surface area:air ratio. By working with a local feed mill where the algae are produced, the approach outlined in this project can realize economic gains by a local entity, reducing the costs of shipping dramatically.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.