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Foundation For Food And Agriculture Research Offering EGG-Tech Prize


The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research in partnership with Open Philanthropy has launched Phase II of the EGG-Tech Prize to develop technology to determine the gender of embryos before hatch. The initial Phase I awarded seed grants intended to develop noninvasive approaches to gender determination with demonstration of proof of principle. 


Phase II of the EGG-Tech Prize will consider technologies to accurately determine gender at rates required for commercial production. The EGG-Tech Prize for the second phase will be $4 million to provide a scalable, commercially viable solution.


Dr. Tim Kurt, FFAR Scientific Program Director, noted, “The EGG-Tech Prize could lead to a powerful tool that can improve the global food system while increasing the profitability of egg producers.”  Despite projections and numbers of cockerel chicks that require disposal, gender determination is essentially a welfare challenge and will not materially add to profitability following implementation of an effective solution. 


It appears that there is some temporal disconnect between the FFAR and the commercial sector.  Lohmann has initiated a strategic alliance with the Respeggt Group to install SELEGGT equipment for gender determination in a hatchery in Germany. Eggs from commercial hens derived from all-pullet hatches are available in major supermarket chains in Europe. This system involves automated assay for estrone in allantoic fluid withdrawn from eggs before seven days of incubation.


A genetic approach involving insertion of a modified z-chromosome construct into hens of the C-Strain at Grandparent Level is an elegant solution allowing for optogenetic differentiation between eggs bearing either male or female embryos.  A similar approach is apparently under development by the CSIRO of Australia with the technology under consideration by Hendrix-Genetics. 


It is questioned why FFAR is expending funds on promoting basic and applied research on gender determination when commercial systems are either in operation or will soon be adopted by the layer industry.