Red Sea Plume (Asparagopsis taxiformis): Intriguing Facts

Red Sea Plume Featured Image

Red Sea Plume, also known as Asparagopsis taxiformis or Limu Kohu, is a type of red algae found in tropical to warm temperate waters all over the world.

This seaweed has become popular for its potential to reduce methane emissions in ruminant animals like cows.

What Is the Lifecycle of Asparagopsis taxiformis?

Red Sea Plume goes through a special lifecycle called haplodiplophasic, where it has two different phases that look different from each other. This is common in many red algae.

In the past, scientists thought these two stages were separate species. They even gave the diploid stage a different name – Falkenbergia hillebrandii.

How Is Red Sea Plume Used in Cooking?

Red Sea Plume is a popular type of seaweed in Hawaii, where it’s used mainly as a condiment. In Hawaiian, it is called Limu Kohu, which means ‘pleasing seaweed’.

This seaweed has a bitter taste that reminds people of iodine. It’s a traditional ingredient in a Hawaiian dish called Poke.

What Is the Essential Oil of Red Sea Plume Made Of?

The essential oil of Red Sea Plume contains 80% bromoform, which is a tri-bromo-methane.

It also has other bromine- and iodine-containing organic compounds.

How Does Red Sea Plume Help Reduce Methane Emissions in Cows?

Cows produce a lot of methane gas when they burp. This gas comes from the fermentation process that happens in their stomachs.

Scientists found that if they feed cows a small amount of Red Sea Plume, the methane emissions are greatly reduced.

In 2014, researchers at CSIRO and James Cook University discovered that adding 1% to 2% of red seaweed to the diet of cows could reduce their methane emissions by over 90%.

Among 20 types of seaweed tested, the Red Sea Plume stood out with almost 99% effectiveness.

What Are the Active Ingredients in Red Sea Plume that Reduce Methane Emissions?

In 2016, the same team of researchers found that 2% to 5% of seaweed biomass could reduce methane production by 98% to 100% in vitro.

They also identified the bioactive compounds in the Red Sea Plume that help in this process.

The most potent compound is dichloromethane extract, which reduces methane production by 79%.

Bromoform and dibromochloromethane were the most effective in inhibiting methane production, but only bromoform is present in high enough amounts to be effective.

In 2020, the researchers showed that adding just 0.2% of Red Sea Plume to cattle feed could reduce their methane emissions by over 98%.

In 2021, a team from UC Davis found that adding 0.25% and 0.5% of this seaweed to cattle feed could reduce methane emissions by 69.8% and 80%, respectively.

How Can Red Sea Plume Be Produced to Meet the Demand for Livestock Feed?

The supply of Red Sea Plume from the wild harvest is not enough to support widespread use.

To solve this problem, CSIRO established a company called FutureFeed Pty Ltd., which has global intellectual property rights for using Asparagopsis for livestock feed.

Their goal is to significantly reduce methane emissions in cows and other ruminants. In 2020, FutureFeed won a Food Planet Prize worth $1 million for its research.

What Are the Efforts to Farm Red Sea Plume at A Large Scale?

Currently, Red Sea Plume has not been farmed at a big scale, but several companies are working on it to make the seaweed available for the livestock industry.

Some of these efforts include:

  • Greener Grazing: A research and development initiative that aims to close the lifecycle of the Red Sea Plume and demonstrate ocean-based grow-out.
  • Volta Greentech and Blue Ocean Barns: These companies are growing the seaweed in vertical, near-shore land-based tanks using seawater for temperature and nutrients.
  • Symbrosia: A company from Yale University is exploring integrating Red Sea Plume cultivation with whiteleg shrimp on land using a patent-pending technology.
  • CH4 Global: This startup has developed energy-efficient EcoParks in Australia and New Zealand to produce Red Sea Plume for use in feedlot cattle solutions.

Volta Greentech, Blue Ocean Barns, Symbrosia, and CH4 Global have received support from venture capital funds to further their efforts in producing Red Sea Plume at a large scale.

You can check out what this plant looks like over here.

Asparagopsis taxiformis Characteristics

Care Level:Moderate
Growth Rate:Moderate
Nutrient Uptake:Good
Required Lighting:Moderate High
Required Water Flow:Moderate High
Is Palatable?Yes
Maximum Size:6 in (15.2 cm)

Scientific Classification

Scientific Name:Asparagopsis taxiformis
Also Known As:Red Sea Plume, Limu Kohu
Conservation Status:Unknown

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