DUTCH ag-tech startup In Ovo, which can sex chicks before hatching, has raised €34m to accelerate international growth and scale-up.

The firm has developed a high-throughput screening machine called Ella that can identify the gender of eggs before they hatch.

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It was founded in 2013 as a spin-off from Leiden University and works by removing a small sample from within fertilised eggs before looking for a biomarker that indicates gender.

Each year an estimated 6.5 billion male chicks are hatched and culled at day-old because they do not lay eggs.

Germany and France have both moved to ban the practice of male chick culling, creating pressure to develop a solution.

‘Fantastic journey’

This latest Series B funding round was led by the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF) with financing from investment bank ABN AMRO.

There were also additional investments from technology partner Demcon and existing shareholders Evonik and VisVires New Protein.

In Ovo co-founder, Wouter Bruins, said: “Getting Ella from an idea to a market-ready technology has been a fantastic journey, one that we couldn’t have made without the help of our initial investors.

“We can’t wait to start the next chapter in our mission and are super-excited to be joined in this by ECBF, ABN AMRO and Demcon.

‘Positive impact’

“We are looking forward to making a large positive impact in the food industry, together with our launching customers and our growing team of driven people.”

Peter Nieuwenhuizen, founding partner at the ECBF, added: “We are delighted to join the founders and current investors of In Ovo on their journey.

“Poultry and egg farming are essential for the supply of protein to feed the world, and solving the issue of male chick culling will be transformational for the sector.

“We believe that In Ovo can be a force for good, not just by eliminating male chick culling but also by introducing additional practices that improve animal health and wellbeing, and increase resource efficiency.”