The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is accepting applications for Phase I of the Egg-Tech prize, an initiative intended to stimulate the development of technologies for the accurate, early-stage-in-ova sex determination of layer chicks.
Several billion layer chicks are hatched each year to supply the world with eggs. Egg industry workers are only able to identify a chick’s sex after it hatches. For the six billion laying hens hatched each year, a similar number of male chicks are produced that never make it to market. As male chicks cannot lay eggs and are unmarketable in meat quality, the male chicks are culled, creating major challenges in animal welfare and lost-opportunity costs that hinder farm profitability.
The Egg-Tech Prize is designed to incentivize groups around the world to develop a commercially and economically viable technology that can identify the sex of poultry embryos prior to incubation. Expectations for Phase I of the program include the following: the technology is accurate (high sensitivity and specific); functions prior to incubation of eggs at 37-38 degrees Celsius; is capable of processing over two thousand eggs per hour; and is non-invasive (does not penetrate the eggshell).
Specific approaches may include any technically feasible methods for identifying embryo sex, including but not limited to genetic, hormone, or chemical-based assays that use microfluidics, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), robotics, spectrophotometry or light scattering, colorimetry, volatile chemical detection, sensors and/or machine-learning.
Through this Phase I call for applications, FFAR expects to award five grants of up to $400,000 over one to two years. Phase II criteria will be released in 2020.
Eligible applicants include any domestic or international public or private institution, consortium, nonprofit organization, for-profit company, or tribal government entity, or any combination of the above.
See the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research website for compete program guidelines and application instructions.