Chicken hatcheries around the world will soon have access to a unique, new, made-in-Canada technology that holds the potential to revolutionize the business.
The non-invasive scanning technology – that will identify the gender of day-old eggs before they are incubated – is set to streamline the hatchery process, create new tech-sector jobs and redirect resources previously used to raise male chicks.
Research funded by the Egg Farmers of Ontario, through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, was conducted at McGill University, to bring the concept of gender identification of unhatched eggs to full-scale commercialization. The project is in its second phase. That’s work to fine-tune the scanning system in preparation for a commercial application that would be available for sale to hatcheries in Canada and around the world.
“This is a very sophisticated technology that includes state-of-the-art visioning,” says Tim Nelson, CEO of Livestock Research Innovation Corporation. It’s the group partnering with Egg Farmers of Ontario to bring the technology to market. “There is a tremendous amount of design work that goes into creating this new system that, at full capacity, could scan and identify male and female, and fertile and non-fertile eggs at 50,000 eggs per hour.”
The knowledge that comes from being able to identify the gender of day-old eggs will give hatcheries new information. Female eggs can be incubated for hatching and infertile or male eggs can join the table or processing stream.
“This new technology will offer tremendous new opportunities to Ontario’s hatchery industry,” says Harry Pelissero, general manager of Egg Farmers of Ontario “Redirecting day-old male eggs opens new market opportunities, and focuses hatchery resources of energy, water and other resources to hatching female eggs. It’s really going to be a game-changer.”
Commercialization of the technology will involve working with established hatchery automation companies, as the new technology requires custom-fitting to each hatchery, and is expected to create up to 30 jobs in Ontario, including visioning system technicians.
“We’ve already had interest and requests from hatcheries around the world that are very excited about the potential of this new technology,” says Pelissero. “We are now moving into testing prototypes in Ontario hatcheries to be sure the accuracy and speed we have in the lab can be achieved at the commercial level. We expect to go to market in 2018 with the first commercial hatchery application.”
This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.