IN OVO, a Dutch start-up that is developing technology to sex commercial poultry in the egg, has said it has now hatched 150,000 laying hens without culling male chicks.
The firm said its gender screening machine had been operational in a hatchery since December, operating at “high speed”.
It marks a milestone in the culmination of 10-years of research, which began at Leiden University, in the Netherlands.
The machine, called Ella, works by removing a small sample from within fertilised eggs before looking for a biomarker that indicates gender.
“This combination of cutting-edge engineering and high-tech biochemistry results in an in-line, fully automated solution, capable of gender typing eggs at day-9 of development,” the firm said.
The current machine can sex 1 million hens per year, and the firm is now redeveloping the technology to scale up to 5 million hens per year.
To do so, In Ovo has raised ‘several million Euros in its latest funding round, which included existing shareholders VisVires New Protein and Evonik Venture Capital.
“We are continuously improving our technology on speed, accuracy and day of testing,” said Wouter Bruins, co-founder and one of the managing directors of In Ovo.
“I’m confident that we are well placed to meet market and regulatory demands.”
Both Germany and France will ban the practice of male chick culling by the end of 2021, creating pressure on egg in those countries to find alternative solutions.
Germany, in particular, is pressing hard for a ban and has invested several million Euros in research.
By 2024, eggs will have to be sexed before day six of incubation in the country – something no existing technology is yet able to do.