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AUTOMATED SEMINAL QUALITY PLATFORM FOR SWINE REPRODUCTION UPGRADING

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SQS (AUTOMATED SEMINAL QUALITY PLATFORM FOR SWINE REPRODUCTION UPGRADING)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2018-04-30

FAO states that global meat production and consumption is rising to 300 million tonnes by 2020. In terms of meat demand, there will be stronger growth in consumption for pork and poultry in many developing countries. In this way, higher fertility rates are required to increase pork farm production. This means that Artificial insemination (AI) centres need a quick and unbiased analysis system to boost production.
SQS (Seminal Quality System) is a disruptive, innovative and compact advanced system for automated boar semen quality analysis. It analyses the 3 main fertility sperm parameters (viability, concentration and morphology) by fluorescence, and calculates automatically the extender volume and the amount of doses to be produced- in less than 2 minutes (we continue working on decreasing this value). The ease to use and the automatized process will enable AI-centres to produce doses with the guarantee of a high fecundation potential.
The SQS project has run during 18 months and has resulted in the scaling-up and implementation of the manufacturing process, as well as in the validation of the devices and in a strong commercial activity (with firsts units already sold). In addition, ZoitechLab has carried out the actions ensured the SQS intellectual protection (trademark, Internet domains).
The work carried out during the project has focused on:
• Regarding re-bioengineering and validation activities:
- Improvements for reducing the SQS device running time processing (focus enhancement, optimization of morphological detections, motors movement optimization, optimization of number of fields captured).
- The application developed to gather, analyse and represent the reports (SQS Lab) obtained from the SQS analyser have beed modified according to clients’ needs and its integration with the SQS Brain device.
- New formula improvements (SQS Test) to optimize spermatozoa morphology structures detection.
- Standalone validation of SQS device, SQS Brain and SQS Lab (stress tests, compatibility test), SQS System scientific validation and customer validation.

• Regarding scaling-up, manufacturing processes incorporate new fluorochrome tubes based on 96-microtiter plates, pipetting robot, revisions and packaging improvements. A great number of upgrades have been included in the SQS Lab to improve the final user experience and to cover extra functional requirements. The SQS Test is the product which has the most changes, not only its image and appearance but also the handling specification and the production scaling. Thanks to improvings, multiply the manufactured quantity by four maintaining all the guarantees in results. Regarding the post-sales warranty and anti-copy protection policies are still under development, warranty seals, cyphering on HDD, source code obfuscation, software licensing security, password protection have already been implemented to cope with the potential misuse of the SQS solution.
• Exploitation, dissemination and business development:
- Industrial property records: ZoitechLab has carried out the record of European Union Trademark and International Trademark (applicable to China and USA) and maintained the internet domains about the SQS solution (Semen Quality System®) in the main territories we have commercial interest (UE including Spain, USA and China).
- Technological Surveillance: ZoitechLab has carried out periodic searches of global patent and non‐patent literature. This activity has helped the company to identify updates and novelties in existing systems.
- IP Criteria: After evaluation of the patentability of an invention related to the SQS solution, it was concluded that only the composition kit and use of the invention are considered as new but not inventive.
- Market forecast: ZoitechLab has focused on Asian market, USA and to a lesser extent, Spain. Moreover, ZoitechLab continue working in LATAM.
- Competitor’s developments: A thorough analysis and follow-up of similar equipment has been done analyzing competitor´s website and industry-related newsletters and attending tradeshows and visiting target markets.
- Client’s feedback: As result of the demonstrations of the SQS (fairs, field visits) the users impressions were collected and used to improve the system.
• Also, professional staff has been sent to the target markets to make demonstrations of the SQS to get end users' feedback. Their impressions were resumed below:
- Regarding the appearance, most of the potential customers have welcomed SQS device size and simple user interface, easy training and manage. The staining system is very well valued, compared with previous process, longer and more expensive.
- Apropos of analysis time, 2 minutes satisfies most users. After this update, no potential customer has risen again that issue.
- Referred to the connectivity of the SQS, solutions developed by ZoitechLab adapted to client (wireless network or Bluetooth) satisfy current users demands.

In general terms, ZoitechLab is satisfied with the improvements done during the whole project time, but they consider their work did not finish yet. The company continues to improve the technical performance of the SQS system and is already working on a new improved version for next year.
In addition, they continue working with their distributors in China, USA, Mexico and Thailand, supporting their actions with permanent contact and periodic visits to consolidate the market. It’s essential being in touch with clients to know their requirements day-by-day.
SQS will become the ultimate technological tool for artificial reproduction and farming industry. The system contributes to solve the current problems of swine AI-centres, where semen analyses are performed. SQS has to do with the following characteristics and advantages:
• It does not need previous handling.
• Motor platen automatized control.
• Sample segmentation for cell properties identification and classification.
• Simultaneous analysis of three different parameters: sperm concentration, morphology and viability on a single sample.
• Result visualization on a friendly environment and the possibility of obtaining and standardized report.
• The reports are stored on database automatized system, which enables specific data selection, data filtering, and improves the decision-making process. Moreover, it allows to store and share data with other systems on different locations.
• The automatic process enables to obtain repetitive and reliable results.
• The process enables the analysis of samples in less than 2 minutes.
• The device does not require specific training or calibration.
A thorough surveillance analysis and follow-up of similar equipment has been done analyzing competitor´s website and industry-related newsletters and attending tradeshows and visiting target markets. SQS remains the only equipment that offers an accurate analysis on the quality of the cell membrane in a completely automatic way and uses dehydrated staining system easy to handle with immediate results. On these regards, ZoitechLab is still confident on its competitive advantage.