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Hendrix Genetics: More than just genetics

Blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics, senor and vision technologies, the internet of things… technology developments continue to be driven forward at pace in today’s society.

2 years after launching Hendrix Genetics Innovations to meet the need to stay connected to these developments, the company has released details of new developments.

Marcel Huijsman, Hendrix Genetics director of marketing and communications, said the aim of the Innovations team was to explore new technologies to understand their potential impact on business, partners and clients and to support innovative start-ups and ventures.

“Our Aim is to examine the technologies and try to understand how these concepts could enhance the field of genetics and animal breeding. To achieve this, we practice open innovation and foster collaboration with partners inside and outside the sector.”

Sensor technology

Advancements in the fields of robotics and sensor technology have led the company to develop the Eggxaminator, a robot capable of automatically measuring 10 different exterior egg traits.

Created with a tech partner in the Netherlands, the egg robot uses Machine Vision technology to examine and collect data on exterior egg phenotypes with a high amount of accuracy and consistency.

The company believes that the Eggxaminator – recently installed in its egg lab for intensive on-site testing – will provide more accurate data and remove the possibility for human error.

There are plans to scale up the technology for full implementation in the layers breeding programme.

Among the anticipated benefits for customers from being able to select for enhanced egg quality will be increased shell strength, breaking strength at the end of the bird’s laying cycle and better consistency of egg shall shade.

Blockchain

Cargill took a lead last autumn with its turkey blockchain initiative in the United States and major supermarkets such as Walmart and Carrefour have been taking forward this technology across their supply chains.

Hendrix Genetics is among the first companies in the world to pilot the use of blockchain in the animal protein value chain. Blockchain allows secure sharing of real-time data but needs close cooperation with value chain partners, including farmer, feed suppliers, slaughterhouses and certification bodies.

One of its pilots has been the collaboration in the Better Life One-star turkey project. The goal is to embrace animal welfare and make the turkey supply chain fully transparent.

Johan van Arendonk, Hendrix’s chief innovation and technology officer, said through the use of blockchain it is possible to authenticate that the turkey meat is produced according to programme standards.“This provides trust, as well as greater efficiency in the supply chain. When everyone from breeding to retailer, has access to authenticated real-time data, everyone benefits.”

Sustainable protein

With the challenge of feeding the growing global population sustainably and at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions, poultry breeders have also been looking at several initiatives to change the way animal protein is produced.

Partnering with Protix, one of the world’s largest insect production companies, provides Hendrix with the chance to jointly create world leading programme in insect breeding, building on Protix’s work on the Black Soldier Fly. Black Soldier Flies are excellent protein extractors and can thrive on almost anything, including leftover food.

In addition, the company is actively supporting animal and environmentally friendly farming concepts, such as Kipster Farms in the Netherlands as well as supporting initiative that may prevent the culling of day old male chicks and improve animal welfare in the egg supply chain.

Artificial intelligence

Hendrix is actively working with artificial intelligence specialists to incorporate the latest senor technology and most advanced data analysis technologies in its breeding programme.

It has already been using AI technology in its Swine Business Unit to predict individual slaughterhouse traits before they are processed. This technology is seen as very promising because it would allow geneticists to connect genes to traits like toughness, intermuscular fat, net carcase weight and taste.

Partnering with BrainCreators, an AI company in Amsterdam, Hendrix sees the work as a chance to add extra value in the pork chain.

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