CORDIS - EU research results

A novel approach for sexing chicken embryos on day one before incubation - saving them from being hatched and disposed of.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - eggXYt (A novel approach for sexing chicken embryos on day one before incubation - saving them from being hatched and disposed of.)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2022-03-31

Chick sexing refers to the practice of separating male chickens from female chickens. This manual inspection is performed by human chicken sexers at hatcheries, the day after the chicks have hatched. In the layer industry, male chickens are useless because they do not produce eggs and they are too lean to be used for their meat. For this reason, day old male chicks are immediately disposed of, after having been sorted by human chicken sexers. This leads to a massive financial and moral challenge. Every year, 7 billion male chicks are needlessly incubated and hatched just to be killed, and hatcheries waste billions of dollars on the unnecessary incubation of these chicks, manual chick sexing, and waste management.
The EU-funded eggXYt project is revolutionizing the chicken industry by making it possible to detect the sex of the embryo, before the egg is ever incubated. This is accomplished by placing a biomarker on the male chromosome of the chick embryo, which can then be detected by a scanner at the entrance of the hatchery. EU funding has enabled eggXYt to advance significantly in the development and commercialization of this solution. Over the past year, eggXYt began a commercial pilot with one of the largest chicken genetics companies in the world to develop the first ever sex detectable chicken flock, and eggXYt has additionally joined the few select labs globally which are capable of applying revolutionary scientific techniques to chicken cells. eggXYt is continuing to deploy its EU funding to scale its sex detection scanner in tandem with the biological development.
The main mission of the project was to streamline technological and commercial progress of eggXYt’s sex detection solution by funding scientific milestones in the development of eggXYt’s sex detectable chicken lines and proprietary sex detection scanner and opening opportunities for business partnerships with egg and hatchery industry leaders, for funding from world class investors, for media exposure in leading publications, and more.
The main results and their exploitation & dissemination include the following:
1. eggXYt made technological breakthroughs in the biological development of the sex detectable chicken line. eggXYt’s R&D team was able to master complex protocols for the successful culturing and gene editing of the particular chicken cells required for inheritable traits.
2. eggXYt made significant progress in the development of the seXYt scanner.
3. eggXYt has forged commercial relationships with the leading industry players to streamline our go-to-market strategy including with TBG AG, the holding company of leading hatchery equipment producers Moba, Petersime, Jamesway, and Chick Master, which collectively service 66% of layer hatcheries worldwide. TBG AG is also an investor in eggXYt. eggXYt has publicized this partnership in many news sources, including our features in Food Navigator, Israel21C, Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry Foreign Trade Administration’s website, and El Productor.
4. eggXYt has forged relationships with key stakeholders, who will be critical in pushing forward consumer and regulatory acceptance for our solution. From the egg industry, we have forged relationships with Andre Hodel; Philip Wilkinson, OBE; American Egg Board; and United Egg Producers. Andre Hodel is the CEO and Chairman of Prodavi, one of Switzerland’s largest egg producers. Out of enthusiasm for our solution, Andre Hodel and Philip Wilkson joined our advisory board.
In terms of governmental affiliations, we have forged relationships most notably with Philipp Roessler (former Vice Chancellor of Germany and current board member of the WEF) and Jan-Christoph Oetjen of the Free Democratic Party in Germany. We have also been in touch with the governmental research corporation Embrapa in Brazil. Lastly, we have engaged many animal rights’ groups including Animal Equality, which is lobbying to end chick culling around the world.
5. eggXYt secured its proprietary rights by filing numerous patent applications worldwide. eggXYt’s patent families protecting its core technology of sex detection of chick has been the subject of 51 pending applications in more than 40 jurisdictions, spanning 111 countries.
6. eggXYt has been empowered to raise additional funding based of the traction achieved through R&D results and commercial partnerships. Notable investors include TBG AG, Solve Innovation Future (the venture arm of MIT Solve), Rimonim (an Israeli agritech venture fund), and Andre Hodel.
7. eggXYt was able to reach broader and new audiences by attracting features in world class news publications such as: Watt Poultry, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, The Guardian, Cornell University’s Alliance for Science, Jerusalem Post, Poultry World, Food Navigator, Bloomberg, CNN Business, Science Magazine, TECHnGOOD, Forward Fooding, Labiotech, CV Magazine, and The Silicon Review.
8. eggXYt was able to gain additional exposure through participation in accelerators and competitions. eggXYt was named a Sustainable Food Systems Solver at MIT Solve. eggXYt also participated in Unreasonable Impact, an accelerator run by Barclay’s. eggXYt also successfully completed EIT FAN. Additionally, eggXYt was listed on Forward Fooding’s Top 500 list at position 20 and was the winner of the Food Pitch at VERGE 2020.
This grant has given eggXYt the empowerment to make significant progress towards commercialization of its revolutionary sex detection solution for the egg industry. On a societal level, eggXYt’s solution will allow for more sustainable food production. Today, 7 billion male chicks are incubated, hatched, and sorted, only to be killed and disposed of the day they are born. eggXYt’s solution avoids this process by allowing hatcheries to detect the sex of the egg the day it is laid, thereby reducing the biological waste in the egg production value chain. Slashing hatchery operations by halving the number of incubated eggs will also significantly reduce carbon emissions resulting from the egg industry. Just from reducing electricity used on incubation, eggXYt’s solution can reduce emissions by 85 metric tons/year. However, this figure doesn’t include emissions caused by the waste disposal of the chicks, which we’ve been advised would have an even larger impact on CO2 emissions by several magnitudes. Additionally, eggXYt’s solution will have positive effects on food security by creating a new supply of eggs (the non-incubated male eggs). Lastly, eggXYt will increase access to ethically sourced food by creating a brand of male-chick-culling-free eggs.
eggXYt’s solution will also provide economic benefits for the egg industry. The clearest benefit will be cost savings from production, saving an estimated $1 billion a year and eliminating the complex logistics of transporting sexing teams. Allowing compliance with new regulations will be another main benefit particularly in Europe, where new laws are forcing hatcheries to find a solution the chick culling. Recent German legislation, codified in May 2021, bans any solution which acts after Day 6 of incubation, starting in 2024, because it is at this point of development that embryos begin to feel pain. eggXYt expects other countries, such as France, Switzerland, and Spain to follow Germany’s lead. eggXYt’s solution, which is entirely pre-incubation, complies with this new regulation.
Gene-edited chicken cells containing the biomarker
Rendering of seXYt Scanning Eggs
General System Model of seXYt
Images of the injection protocol