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This so-called 'Methane Man' discovered a bacteria that literally eats air pollution: 'You've got to swing for the fences'

"This is a 'go big or go home' story."

Josh Silverman, microbes that can eat methane gas

Photo Credit: iStock

Josh Silverman founded Windfall Bio in 2022 with a very specific mission: using methane-eating microbes to create an alternative to traditional fertilizer.

Methane is the second-biggest contributor to our planet's overheating. Studies indicate that the gas is the culprit for the approximate 30% rise in the Earth's temperature, according to the International Energy Agency.

Silverman's methane-eating microbes help decrease the amount of methane in the air, consequently reducing the gas's overall impact on the planet's temperature. It's the reason he's earned the endearing title of "Methane Man."

Windfall Bio's microbes are targeted at farmers because livestock, especially cows, produce a massive amount of methane each year through belching. 

The company's product has an added bonus that makes the microbes even more appealing to customers: When the microbes consume methane, they produce nutrients that enrich the surrounding soil. This means that farmers who use the microbes will be able to save money on fertilizers.

"We see agriculture as the most critical human system and see farmers as the critical players in that system," Windfall Bio's website states. "We know that when they are successful and empowered, their communities are too. Our aim is to create easy-to-implement low-cost tools that enable them to get more out of what they put in."

Windfall Bio is just the latest iteration of Silverman's fascination with microbes and the environment. The entrepreneur earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Stanford in 2002, and, after a few years in the pharmaceutical industry, started Siluria, a company that converted natural gas into other valuable products, according to CNBC

Traditional wisdom suggested that methane-eating bacteria couldn't be used very productively because they worked too slowly. But, Silverman discovered that with contemporary technology, they could be weaponized into something incredibly powerful under the right conditions, according to CNBC

"They're just able to eat a different food than most other bacteria," Silverman told the outlet. "And once you deal with that, then the rest is actually pretty easy."

In the future, Silverman wants to use his methane-eating bacteria to create even more products.

"Who cares about making a little bit of impact here and there?" Silverman told CNBC. "You have got to swing for the fences, right? This is a 'go big or go home' story."

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