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An extraordinary seaweed growing along the coast of Tasmania has the power to halt climate change

Words by Myffy Rigby

A meditative place full of promise for a more positive future
“I think we’re already living in the world climate scientists have predicted” - Sea Forest founder, Sam Elsom
"We’ve just got to take action. We can’t wait for the government, and we can’t bark and cry and worry about it" - Sam Elsom
Seaweed sucks four times more carbon out of the atmosphere than a tree
He might have started in fashion, but these days, Sam Elsom is most definitely a seaweed man
Feeding livestock just 30 grams of asparagopsis seaweed per animal per day can reduce that animal’s methane emissions by up to 98.2 per cent

There’s no magic pill for reducing the effects of climate change, right? Wrong.

A group of scientists have made one, using red kelp that grows all along the Tasmanian coastline. Not only does this seaweed suck four times more carbon out of the atmosphere than a tree, but it also has the ability to drastically reduce methane emissions in cattle. By sheer dint of it simply existing in the water, it also helps scrub the ocean of acid buildup. It’s also very delicious to eat.

So what the hell is this magical science plant? Meet asparagopsis taxiformis, a very special red kelp indeed. One of the many skills asparagopsis possesses is its ability to break down certain reactions in a cow’s stomach. Picture that stomach as a large version of a barbecue gas cylinder you get from the servo.That gas chamber stomach creates methane through fermentation as part of the very slow breakdown of the cow’s food.

Feeding livestock just 30 grams of asparagopsis seaweed per animal per day can reduce that animal’s methane emissions by up to 98.2 per cent. Think of it as a bit like an antacid for ruminants. Let’s call it Vitamin Sea.

"There are currently a billion cows on the planet. Think about that every time you eat an ice cream"

The other drawcard is Vitamin Sea’s ability to encourage faster growth in cattle by up to 20 per cent. The end result, essentially, is more food, with fewer resources. That’s a big win for the ocean, our carbon footprint, cattle, livestock farmers and, of course, lovers of milkshakes.

To have a promising future on earth, we need to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent. Methane from livestock such as sheep and cows represents 70 per cent of agricultural emissions. And there are currently a billion cows on the planet. Think about that every time you eat an ice cream, pour milk in your tea or order a fillet steak smothered in cafe de paris butter.

That’s where Sea Forest steps in. Spearheaded by Sam Elsom, a designer and creative director who’s been working in sustainable apparel production for the past 15 years, Sea Forest’s mission is to help to reduce global carbon emissions created by livestock, using the asparagopsis seaweed concentrate. “I think we’re already living in the world climate scientists have predicted,” says Elsom. “It’s happening.”

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Swill Magazine #1

Writer

Myffy Rigby

Sub-editor

Pru Engel

Photography

Sea Forest

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