Engender Technologies, the agricultural technology company spun out of the University of Auckland, is moving to scale up its sex-selection product for the dairy industry to full commercialisation in the next 18 months and is targeting the US$2 billion ($2.8b) dairy artificial insemination industry.
By: Tina Morrison
Co-founded by the University of Auckland and seed investment company Pacific Channel in 2011, Engender has secured option-to-license agreements for its technology with three of the world’s largest artificial insemination companies, has successfully concluded laboratory trials and is preparing for scaling commercialisation, the Auckland-based company said.
In August, the company’s first key patent was allowed in the US and its patent attorneys have confidence that it will be granted in its other key markets, it said.
Engender is hoping to capitalise on demand for technology which can control whether calves are born male or female, enabling dairy farmers to focus their production on higher-value milking cows.
In the US, it will compete with the dominant market player Inguran, which claims it can deliver heifer calves in about 90 per cent of pregnancies, according to a Bloomberg report.
Engender claims its technology is gentle on cells – which helps preserve the sperm’s fertility and results in higher conception rates – and can be brought to market with low capital and low operating costs.
The company said having control over whether a calf will be born a male or female is “extremely attractive” to artificial insemination businesses and dairy farmers as elite female calves bred for their dairying characteristics can be slotted into the production scheme, while male calves are of less use to dairy farmers.
“Access to a low-cost sex selection technology for dairy would enable farmers to breed off the top half of their herd to double the current rate of genetic gain,” said Engender founding scientist Professor Cather Simpson.
“There is an unmet need in the international animal breeding industry for an affordable and effective sperm sex sorting product, notably in the dairy sector,” the company said.
Engender said it is preparing a further 11 patent applications related to individual aspects of its technology.
The company said its patents will assist in future discussions with potential licensees, significant investors or acquirers.
Sex-determined semen for breeding remains relatively new and accounts for only 3 per cent of a global market, according to Bloomberg.