AgriZeroNZ invests $9.9M in US company in race for ‘holy grail’ methane vaccine

9 May 2024

AgriZeroNZ is doubling down on efforts to deliver a methane vaccine with an investment in U.S. ag-biotech start-up, ArkeaBio.

The JV has invested NZD $9.9million (USD $6m) to accelerate ArkeaBio’s development of a methane vaccine for ruminant animals, with an initial focus on cattle.

It is the JV's second investment in vaccine development, having already invested in the New Zealand research programme.

AgriZeroNZ chief executive Wayne McNee, says the JV is backing two vaccine projects to increase the chance of delivering the highly 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 already commonly used to support animal health.

“We’re really pleased to be supporting ArkeaBio and its innovative approach to develop this important solution to help farmers curb emissions," Wayne McNee said.

ArkeaBio is based in Boston and led by Kiwi expat, Colin South.

The start-up recently completed US$26.5m Series A venture financing to support process development, trial expansion, and defining path to market. This financing was led by existing investor, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), with new investments from AgriZeroNZ, The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Rabo Ventures, Overview Capital, and The 51 Food & AgTech Fund.

South said they are pleased to have AgriZeroNZ join its 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. 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," Colin South, CEO ArkeaBio.

Colin South, CEO ArkeaBio

A vaccine would be a critical tool to help farmers achieve the JV's ambition of reducing agricultural emissions by 30 per cent 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’re 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," Wayne McNee.

AgriZeroNZ is half owned by the New Zealand government, with the other half owned by major agribusiness companies – 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.

Since being established on 1 February 2023 the JV has committed over $29 million to accelerate development of emissions reduction tools for Kiwi farmers. Other investments include funding for a methane inhibiting bolus, novel probiotics, low emissions pasture and construction of a greenhouse gas testing facility. 

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