Blue Ocean Barns Fights Climate Change with Seaweed
Startup profile No. 1 covering Elemental Excelerator’s latest cohort.
Cattle are a major source of methane, but Blue Ocean Barns says its seaweed-based feed additive for cows will reduce their formation and emission of that powerful greenhouse gas.
“Blue Ocean Barns seeks to scale fast,” says Joan Salwen, CEO and co-founder of Blue Ocean Barns. “We envision a world in which all beef and dairy products are climate-protecting. Today’s high-emitting cows will cease to exist within a few decades, gone the way of cars without seat belts, lead-based paint and aerosol cans.”
The company is part of the latest cohort of startups at Elemental Excelerator.
Salwen says cows emit large amounts of methane after digesting grass and other traditional feed, but seaweed reduces those emissions. “A cow that eats a small amount of it, formulated in Blue Ocean Barns’ proprietary way, reduces emissions equivalent to converting two cars from gas to electric.”
She says Blue Ocean Barns will buy seaweed from ocean farms, process and dry it, then sell the feed additive to dairy and beef farmers.
Started at Stanford
Salwen, Mike Bracco and Matt Rothe launched the company this summer, but they have been working for about three years as founders of a nonprofit. They met at Stanford University through a program that allowed people to address large social problems and the trio focused on methane in agriculture.
About $1 million in grants allowed them to study the efficacy, safety and feasibility of seaweed as a cattle feed ingredient.
“As we published the research, food companies took notice,” Salwen says. “When we launched the company, we teamed up with a lead investor backed by influential food companies wanting to demonstrate leadership in sourcing ingredients, including milk and meat, that take care of the Earth and preserve it for future generations.”
Salwen acknowledges the price of feed is a major factor because livestock farmers face many challenges, including uncertain weather, fluctuating commodity prices and changing federal trade policies.
“We are innovating in the ocean, on the shore and throughout the supply chain to keep costs super low and offer farmers a compelling value proposition for the ingredient, which both keeps the Earth cool and enhances animal outcomes,” Salwen says.
Ultimately, she says, Blue Ocean Barns wants to create a product that farm families can afford and “will insist on using.”
Support from EEx
Salwen says the Elemental Excelerator is well-known among entrepreneurs. As one of EEx’s newest portfolio companies, Blue Ocean Barns hopes to network with EEx’s partners to explore the creation in Hawai‘i of “blue-green jobs” – jobs that heal the climate through ocean-based businesses.
“We really value the extent to which the Elemental team has gotten to know us – our unique journey and challenges – and urged us to maximize opportunities to connect with their network and resources in ways that specifically address our goals,” Salwen says.