Tackling enteric emissions part 2: mapping the solution space

May 16, 2022

This post is the second in a short series I’m writing as I learn and think ‘out loud’ about viable solutions for reducing or eliminating enteric emissions from livestock, and whether & where a venture-scale opportunity might exist.

In the first post, I explored the size and shape of the enteric emissions problem and concluded that: (1) reducing enteric emissions from livestock WILL move the needle on anthropogenic GHGs; and (2) there are increasingly strong drivers across the value chain for getting solutions adopted.

I acknowledge and appreciate there are other incredibly powerful and important “interventions” (technologies, practices, etc.) for increasing the profitability, resilience, and environmental performance of animal agriculture. Here are some resources we’ve produced and curated:

This post is about exploring the solution space specifically for reducing enteric emissions.

Genetics, grazing management, and biogenic interventions

I see three broad areas within the solution space: genetics, grazing management, and biogenic interventions.

  • Genetics: tools to inform and improve the efficacy and efficiency of strategic culling and breeding decisions (e.g., for feed efficiency)
  • Grazing management: tools to help producers improve production efficiency and reduce the time over which they are producing methane
  • Biogenic interventions: modifying the rumen of the animal, for example through feed additives, so that it produces less methane

There are pros and cons to the solutions in each area, as well as lots of under-appreciated yet important science about how methane emissions work, some of which we covered in this podcast episode & short blog.

I’ve also seen a few solutions that don’t fit neatly into these categories, such as direct methane capture approaches through face masks and backpacks. My sense is that these are largely research (or possibly marketing) tools, so I’ve left them off.

A fourth area: digital enablers

I believe it’s inevitable that the supply chain up and downstream of primary producers will continue to get more involved in reducing the emissions intensity of production. As this happens, I see the emergence of a fourth area within the solution space: digital enablers.

Like we’ve seen in the cropping space, I expect we’ll continue to see more innovation and investment across measurement and data collection, analytics, and data sharing solutions for livestock.

While these digital enablers apply more broadly across livestock than just enteric emissions, I believe they will be particularly relevant to how companies tackling enteric emissions design their business models and go-to-market strategies.

Summary: the four-part solution space for enteric emissions

For enteric emissions, here are the four big areas and my first attempt to break down the types of solutions within them.

Within each, I’m seeing different approaches across the technology(ies) used, such as direct sensing, remote sensing, and modeling approaches. I’m also seeing different business models, such as selling direct to producers or working with other parts of the value chain to subsidize/incentivize the cost of adoption.

I’m also noticing that the applicability of the solutions to different types of production systems (e.g., dairy vs. beef; intensive vs. extensive, etc.) and across geographies really varies. This will matter a lot in answering the “are there venture-scale solutions here” question.

Finally, I chose not to name individual companies, though there are certainly multiple within each category. If someone wants to build out a landscape map, I’d be happy to contribute (Seana, Connie…I’m looking at you ;) ).

What would be your pick of where to intervene, as an investor or otherwise? Tomorrow I’ll share which area I find most compelling, why, the challenges I see, and my remaining questions.

At Tenacious Ventures, we back innovators at the intersection of digitally native agriculture and climate solutions. To get regular podcasts, research & insights on all things agtech, subscribe to our newsletter.