The team behind MethaGone consists of 12 bright undergraduate students from the faculty of Science & Engineering, supported by two student advisors from the MSP 2020 iGEM team. The supervisor for the team is Erik Steen Redeker, Assistant Professor at the Maastricht Science Programme, Faculty of Science and Engineering. They have won the KIVI Engineering Student Team award.“Methagone has the potential to achieve a major global impact," the expert jury praised the project.
MethaGone wants to make a food additive which’s main compound has been proven to reduce methane production in ruminant animals by up to 92%. Reducing the methane production of cows whilst also increasing their weight using a feed additive.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat 30 times better than CO2. The livestock industry is currently one of the main producers of methane, being responsible for 14.5% of total methane emissions produced by humans. Reducing greenhouse gases in any way possible is needed to make the shift to carbon neutral or negative technologies
One of the most promising solutions for this problem lies in algae, or rather in a compound called bromoform, that this seaweed produces. Studies have shown that feeding cows A. taxiformis reduces the release of methane by up to 98%. However, it technically difficult and costly to scale the production of these algae to feed to the cattle directly.
MethaGone’s approach is to adapt and transfer the genetic mechanism of A. taxiformis’ bromoform production to bacteria. To increase the efficacy of the final product, they tested different combinations of the seaweed’s genes, where the combination with the highest bromoform production would lie in the basis of the “Methagone” food additive. “Methagone” bacteria will colonize the rumen and thrive in that microenvironment, all while producing bromoform and thus stopping methane emissions.