A British agtech startup has developed a “smart” cattle nose-ring which converts exhaled methane to carbon dioxide, thereby reducing harmful bovine methane gas emissions. Born from London’s Royal Academy Arts Innovation Center, the Zero-Emission Livestock Project (ZELP) expects the device to convert “up to 80% of the cow’s exhaled methane”. Upon detecting methane, the ring activates a “micro-oxidation” chamber which converts methane into carbon dioxide and water. Additionally, through monitoring of unit-specific methane output, the device also provides information regarding digestion rates and chemical flows for the animal. Each device also comes with geolocation information and is connected to a cloud database, which is regularly populated with data.
According to the Food and Agriculture of the United States, the United Nations IPCC and other international organisations, meat production is a major contributor of greenhouse gases, with methane being the most harmful. This device could potentially convert up to 80% of exhaled bovine methane to water vapour and carbon dioxide (a lesser greenhouse gas). Considering that cows emit a substantial amount of gas and nutrients, that they require fodder, and huge swaths of land, among other resources — does this device reduce impact enough to be worth the resources required to produce it? Is it possible that this “burp-converter” is simply a means for livestock companies to market their products as greener? What level of impact must a tech “solution” provide to be considered legitimate in enhancing sustainability?