This is how the ‘methane man’s’ bacteria fights climate change

The microbes gobble up the greenhouse gas emission.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Bacteria in a petri dish.jpg
Bacteria in a petri dish.


Josh Silverman is called the methane man for a good reason. He is a serial entrepreneur and biochemist who has dedicated his career to methane for the last 15 years. 

Now, he has launched his latest company Windfall Bio which aims to use methane-eating microbes to combat climate change, according to a report by CNBC published Wednesday. Since 2022, he has sold Gates’s methane-eating microbes, or methanotrophs, to his pilot customers: farmers whose cows produce large amounts of the greenhouse gas.

On Wednesday, after many years of trying to get investor attention, the company revealed a $9 million round of funding from venture firm Mayfield, with participation from other investors, including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

Methane is the second largest contributor to global warming, responsible for about 30 percent of the worldwide increase in temperature since the Industrial Revolution, according to the International Energy Agency. Silverman is so focused on bacteria that gobble the gas up.

With proper feeding techniques, methane-eating microbes can be genetically modified and proliferated.

“They’re just able to eat different food than most other bacteria. And once you deal with that, then the rest is actually pretty easy,” Silverman told CNBC.

The big elephant in the room

Silverman now wants to use all of his knowledge about methane to address climate change, which he calls “the big elephant in the room.”

“Who cares about making a little bit of impact here and there? You have got to swing for the fences. This is a ‘go big or go home’ story,” Silverman said.

Silverman’s microorganisms eat methane and put the resulting nutrients into the soil as such, cow farms seemed like a logical entry point for the entrepreneur's business, one that could also be quantified.

“We measure methane into the compost pile, we measure methane coming out of the compost pile, we measure carbon and nitrogen left over in the compost pile,” Silverman told CNBC. 

“There’s no modeling or uncertainty associated with it. It’s 100 percent quantifiable with the highest certainty of any type of climate impact that we do have today.”

It is this business model that got Mayfield to invest.

“By converting methane into an effective organic fertilizer through methane-eating microbes, Windfall can dramatically lower costs and turn the challenges faced by these industries into advantages,” said Arvind Gupta, a partner at Mayfield. 

“Windfall’s innovative methane capture and conversion solution has garnered the attention and investment of dairy and agronomy leaders, such as Grupo Lala, Wilbur Ellis, and TetraLaval, as well as an experienced syndicate venture capital firms,” Gupta said.