Young Entrepreneurs Awards Category Winner: Elizabeth Latham

Initiative: The Sustainable Protein and Environment Initiative (SPE)

Country of impact: US

A business built on a patent-pending probiotic that could radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farm animals.

Elizabeth Latham, Young Entrepreneurs Awards 2017 nominee

Methane is a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A key source comes from farm animals, such as ruminants like cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats. As our global population grows and demand for meat increases, the challenge of reducing methane production from the industry becomes ever more important.

Innovating the ruminant gut microbiome

Could a probiotic be the solution? Scientist Elizabeth Latham thinks so. She’s developed a patent-pending bacteria (Pb 79-R4) whose metabolism reduces methane in the gastro-intestinal tract of ruminants. It does it by outcompeting the microbes that produce methane.

Pb 79-R4 also suppresses certain micro-organisms that cause disease, such as E. coli and Salmonella, reducing the need for antibiotics. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can be sprinkled over feed, pasture or water, so it’s easy to store and use.

Halving methane production

SPE originated from Elizabeth’s PhD research and was driven by her passion to help farmers produce safer food products, keep animals healthy and tackle climate change. Pb 79-R4 has been shown to reduce methane by over 50% in their research herd. Elizabeth estimates that if just 1% of producers in the US use the probiotic, it would be the equivalent of removing over a million cars from the road.

In the next two years, SPE has ambitions launch in Texas, where 13% of the cattle in the United States are raised, and from there to expand to other US states and internationally.