The London-based company is working to develop a “smart” face mask design for cattle that captures methane from burps, and turns it into carbon dioxide. And while not everyone is sure about the masks, ZELP has also gained the support and investment of Cargill.
»Related: U.S. dairy industry pushes toward carbon neutrality by 2050
Here’s how it works
- The cows get a harness to wear around their head. ZELP says that this device will not require or cause changes to feeding, rumination, or herd interaction.
- Gas is captured and oxidized. As the cattle exhale, methane travels through a catalyst where it’s then oxidized and released into the air as carbon dioxide and water vapor.
- Methane reduction will be tracked, but the technology is also said to provide key data for farmers, such as welfare, efficiency, and fertility metrics.
Trials on live animals have been conducted in the UK, Ireland, Argentina, and the Netherlands with what the company says are “small” and “large” groups of animals. They did not indicate just how many animals in either category.
Hopefully the cattle don’t mind the masks, because ZELP recommends the gas masks be worn constantly on cattle from 6-8 months and upward. Each mask is supposed to last for up to four years without being charged or changed.
»Related: Increasingly climate-friendly cattle: Feeding the push toward efficiency
Methane production and cattle
While diet is a far-more-common solution to altering microbial populations in the rumen, and in turn, reducing methane emission, ZELP touts their product as a viable solution to be introduced when additives and diet changes aren’t viable.
According to ZELP’s website, methane is estimated to cause 85 times more warning than carbon dioxide — and cattle are a primary contributor.
But, the biggest source of methane production is actually the oil, natural, gas, and coal industry (19 percent). The EPA attributes 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to agriculture, and these industries also offset GHG emissions by offsetting carbon dioxide into soil organic matter and plant tissue. Cattle alone, are only estimated to contribute 2.5 to 3.3 percent of emissions in the U.S.
»Related: Perspective: Let’s talk about methane and cattle