Cows Wearing Backpacks – A Methane Solution

Livestock farming has an enormous impact on climate change. In Argentina, livestock agriculture is prominent with over 51.2 million cows residing in the country. In the United States, methane emissions from animals contribute to 22% of our greenhouse gas emissions. With that being said, methane is also one of the most impactful GHG’s. It is estimated that one cow produces enough methane in a year to do the same amount of damage as 4 tons of carbon dioxide.

The Paris Agreement called for a GHG reduction to prevent the Earth’s temperature rising an additional 2°C compared to temperatures from before the industrial revolution. In order for this to happen, livestock agriculture will have to make strides to reducing their emissions. Aside from the population becoming vegan, there have not been many solutions put forward to make an impact up until recently.

The National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) has created a backpack to mitigate climate change by capturing methane emissions from cows. The backpack would be worn on the cow and captures methane by inserting a tube into the cow’s rumen, or a digestive organ where the gas is produced. Researchers say this does not harm the cow and would capture up to 300 liters of methane per day. This methane can then be condensed and used as fuel for “light” activities such as cooking or lighting.

Although this seems like a humorous solution, it is encouraging to see INTA taking a stab at the methane problem!

Check out my notes below for a summary of the details.

  1. Sustainability Problem: Energy and Climate Change
  2. The following bullet points summarize Argentina’s invention:
    • Methane produced by cows as a result of digestion accounts for 25% of all methane emissions in the atmosphere
    • On average, one cow produces 300 liters of methane per day 
    • The INTA created a backpack that is inserted through the cow’s skin which captures gases emitted through its mouth or intestinal tract
    • The backpack collects the methane and it is then condensed and used to power activities such as cooking, lighting, or driving a car
  3. Organizational stakeholders that would be involved in this technology are:
    • National Institute of Agricultural Technology of Argentina
    • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    • Local farmers in Argentina
    • Facilities Management Team
  4. The following steps should be taken to deploy this technology:
    1. INTA should test this technology on a few local farms in Argentina.
    2. This technology could be introduced on a continental or international stage at the UN, to debate the efficacy and legality of using this on animals.
    3. Lastly, management teams can be established to discuss maintenance and implementation of these on farms.

If you would like to learn more, check out the links!

http://bigthink.com/design-for-good/this-is-how-you-turn-cow-fart-gas-into-energy#

https://www.good.is/articles/backpack-collects-cow-farts

 

 

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