Wednesday, 22 May 2024 07:55

JV invests in race for methane 'holy grail'

Written by  Mark Daniel
AgriZeroNZ chief executive Wayne McNee. AgriZeroNZ chief executive Wayne McNee.

AgriZeroNZ, the joint venture (JV) fast-tracking emissions reduction tools for Kiwi farmers, is looking to speed up delivery of a methane vaccine with a $10m investment in US ag-biotech start-up, ArkeaBio.

It is half owned by the New Zealand Government, with the other 50% owned by the a2 Milk Company, ANZ Bank New Zealand, ANZCO Foods, ASB Bank, Fonterra, Rabobank, Ravensdown, Silver Fern Farms and Synlait.

These shareholders are providing $183 million for AgriZeroNZ to achieve its ambition. The investment will be used to accelerate the US company’s development of a methane vaccine for ruminant animals, with an initial focus on cattle.

It’s the second investment in vaccine development, the JV having already invested in the New Zealand research programme, and AgriZeroNZ chief executive Wayne McNee says the backing of two vaccine projects should increase the chance of delivering a sought-after, world-first solution.

“A methane vaccine for ruminant animals is internationally recognised as the ‘holy grail’ to deliver methane reduction at low cost and mass scale. It could be one of the best long-term options to really shift the dial on agricultural emissions in New Zealand without compromising farm profitability, as well as a powerful tool globally.

“It would be a particularly useful tool for our grass-fed animals and a good fit for our pastoral farms, as vaccination is commonly used to support animal health,” says McNee.

Based in Boston, ArkeaBio is led by Kiwi expat Colin South and has recently completed US$26.5m Series A venture financing to support process development, trial expansion, and defining path to market.

South says they are pleased to have AgriZeroNZ join its second round, which provides both funding and a close relationship with an important and motivated early market for their global solution.

“A vaccine is the lowest-cost path to global scale enteric methane reduction and is applicable to cattle worldwide. This singular solution, distributed globally with large-scale adoption, can change the trajectory of global warming, and demonstrate a path to meeting major climate mitigation goals,” says South.

“The funds raised in this Series A financing will play a pivotal role in expanding the research, development, and deployment of the vaccine, including large-scale field trials and engagement along the supply chain. We look forward to working with AgriZeroNZ and the members of the innovative Kiwi farming environment to make world-leading progress in reducing enteric methane emissions,” he says.

A vaccine would be a critical tool to help farmers achieve AgriZeroNZ’s ambition of reducing agricultural emissions by 30% by 2030. McNee says this is crucial for New Zealand, to meet global customer targets, protect trade agreements and support the country’s climate goals.

“The work to develop a methane vaccine is pioneering, complex and challenging.

“We are proud to be working with two world-leading research teams to support and accelerate their work for farmers in New Zealand and around the globe,” McNee says.

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