Finalists in Phase II of the Egg-Tech Prize will be given additional time and funding to develop a viable solution to non-invasively sex layer chicks before hatch.
“We completed Phase I, announced our six project winners and moved into Phase II as anticipated. However, there was no declared winner in this Phase. This is largely due to our really stringent evaluation criteria with accuracy, high throughput and days before incubation,” explained Nikki Dutta, interim science director, advanced animal systems, Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR).
Approximately 6-7 billion male layer chicks are culled each year, a major animal welfare and economic concern for the layer industry. Animal welfare organizations have pressured the egg industry to find an alternative approach.
In 2019, FFAR, in conjunction with Open Philanthropy, awarded approximately $2 million in Phase I Seed Grants to help develop the necessary technology to compete in Phase II. In Phase II, the initiative offered $4 million to the individuals or teams that have the potential to provide a scalable and commercially feasible solution to determine in-ovo sexing.
Where does the Egg-Tech Prize go from here?
The Egg-Tech Steering Committee, comprised of Open Philanthropy, USPOULTRY, the University of Tennessee, Hy-Line International and United Egg Producers (UEP), decided to expand Phase II.
“We strategically created criteria – as agreed upon by our science experts and the stakeholders within our industry – to ensure that this prize winner will be viabile within U.S. production systems,” Dutta said.
This mean that the finalists received an extended deadline of one year and additional funding. The amount of funding has not yet been confirmed.
“This additional opportunity is more limited in time and scope but allows the finalists to continue to reach towards the final criteria at the end,” she added.
“We’re hoping that within this 12-month period, each team will be able to get closer to that final achievement.”
FFAR hopes to announce the list of Egg-Tech Prize Phase II finalists receiving additional time and funding by the end of the year.