Continuing to reduce our carbon footprint with innovative methane technology

Read about how we’re leading the way in dairy emission reductions.

22 Aug 2022

3 min

#Sustainability #Global

New Zealand has one of the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints per litre of milk produced in the world, but, at Fonterra, we want to go further. Our commitment to producing dairy nutrition in a way that cares for people, animals and our environment drives us. We’re working on several sustainability-focused projects to further reduce our footprint on the journey to net zero by 2050. 

Fonterra’s New Zealand on-farm carbon footprint is approximately one third of the global average.

While carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change, methane contributes significantly to earth’s temperature rise. We believe advances in science will be key in helping to reduce emissions. As part of a large portfolio of projects in this area, we are working on two science-based we are working on two science-based innovations that could be game changing for methane, Fonterra’s long-term sustainability goals, and the agricultural sector as a whole.

A high percentage of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with dairy products come from methane, so decreasing methane is key to helping us achieve our 2050 target of net zero.


reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions since FY18 – well on way to 30% by 2030.

Beautiful sunny green farm with cows

Kowbucha™ – leveraging our world-leading library of dairy cultures

With the extensive dairy research over the last 90 years, Fonterra has one of the largest library of dairy cultures globally, and our scientists are now identifying cultures that can help reduce methane in cows.

The word itself is a play on the word Kombucha – a fermented tea-based drink that encourages “good” bacteria in the human gut. Kowbucha™ is the name given to the fermentations Fonterra are developing with the aim to reduce or eliminate the methane-producing organisms within a cow's digestive system.

A number of farm trials are now underway to help verify the results of the first.

We are excited by the progress we are making in our work to develop practical solutions for farmers to reduce GHG with some encouraging results with a range of potential mitigation technologies.

Fonterra Chief Science and Technology Officer, Professor Jeremy Hill MNZM

Female scientist portrait Waitoa lab

Asparagopsis – our seaweed supplement for cows – has entered the next stage of farm trials

In 2020, Fonterra partnered with Sea Forest to pioneer research designed to understand if including seaweed in cow’s diet can help reduce methane. In early trials, we discovered that asparagopsis, a seaweed species native to Tasmania, South Australia, and the South Island of New Zealand, has the potential to reduce a cow’s methane emissions.

We have since conducted cow trials in the southern hemisphere, during which we extensively tested milk for seaweed residues or faults. We also compared milk production with cows who were not fed the seaweed supplement and found that production remained the same.

Further work is now underway to see if we can reproduce these results in other herds as well as looking into the scaleability of the opportunity. 

Methane reduction is just one of the many sustainable solutions that Fonterra continues to work towards as part of its commitment to sustainable dairying. This commitment is carried through to every NZMP ingredient.

Seaweed supplement for cows

Practical solutions need to be good for cow health and welfare, good for milk production and composition, safe and good for the farmer to use - plus profitable for the farm. Good for the environment due to the amount of GHG reduced, and last but not least - scalable so that many thousands of farmers can access the solutions.

Fonterra Chief Science and Technology Officer, Professor Jeremy Hill MNZM

We’ll continue to keep you updated of further developments on our journey to net zero by 2050.

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