Accelerated MRI technology could sex chicks in-ovo

The team at Orbem.ai, led by CEO and co-founder Pedro Gomez, believe they can use accelerated MRI technology to automatically scan and classify eggs without penetrating the shell.

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A CGI prototype of the MRI machine that could one day perform in ovo chick sexing (Courtesy of Orbem).
A CGI prototype of the MRI machine that could one day perform in ovo chick sexing (Courtesy of Orbem).

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are typically used to create detailed images of organs and tissues in the body. The team at Orbem.ai, led by CEO and co-founder Pedro Gomez, believe they can use accelerated MRI technology to automatically scan and classify eggs without penetrating the shell.

Currently, a chick’s sex can only be identified after hatching. Male chicks are of little use to the egg industry and approximately 6-7 billion male layer chicks are culled each year, an animal welfare and economic concern. Producers spend more than $70 million in labor and energy to incubate and sex these eggs and the value of wasted eggs in the US is more than $440 million annually.

A technological approach

The MRI approach in development by Gomez’s team allows users to examine the organ development of embryos to detect physical differences between males and females. Artificial intelligence then classifies the eggs by sex.

“MRI is a good technology to look into objects without touching them. It's a contactless technology,” Gomez said. “We are currently focused on demonstrating how sex differences show up on an MRI scan throughout embryonic development. Once this is finished, AI algorithms will be able to identify physical differences between the sexes with more accuracy.”

The research is still in the conceptual phase, but Gomez hopes to have a working prototype soon.

Egg-Tech Prize

Orbem.ai was recently awarded $400,000 by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) as one of the six Phase I winners of the Egg-Tech Prize. Winners of Phase I of the Egg-Tech Prize were announced at the 2019 Poultry Tech Summit, held November 20-22, 2019, at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

These funds were matched by outside contributors for a total of $1,149,911.

“Winning this award was a sign of validation that we are on the right track towards solving this problem. We are super excited to be working on this technology,” he concluded. “We can't wait to make our render a reality and actually make an impact on the industry.”

Learn more about future innovations

The 2020 Poultry Tech Summit will be held October 12-14, 2020 at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center. Attendees can expect the same groundbreaking innovation and insightful presentations that made the 2019 event well-attended, with deep dialogue on new prospective solutions and action-packed from industry professionals representing 23 countries.

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