The European Investment Bank (EIB) has provided a €40 million loan to Dutch company In Ovo, an agritech innovator that aims to end the mass culling of male chicks in the poultry industry.
This funding, which will also be used to invest in further innovations in the poultry sector, will propel the expansion of Ella, a fast and accurate technology to determine the sex of hatching eggs at an early stage, the company says. By implementing this technology, hatcheries can exclusively hatch female chicks. This makes culling day-old male chicks unnecessary and improves overall sustainability.
The loan will be used to further develop Ella, but will also be used for ‘Eve’, In Ovo’s innovative sensor platform that optimises the full hatching process. This allows for hatcheries to produce more and healthier chicks.
According to In Ovo, globally an estimated 6.5 billion male chicks are culled each year in the production of laying hens. Wouter Bruins, founder of In Ovo, comments: “We are super excited and humbled to be receiving this prestigious and fantastic support from the EIB. It will permit us to further develop our technology pipeline and become a worldwide player, positively impacting animals throughout the food production channel.”
“In Ovo’s technology represents a significant leap forward in terms of animal welfare and sustainability within the poultry sector, aligning seamlessly with the overarching priorities of EIB,” said EIB vice-president Kris Peeters.
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, adds: “Ensuring that Europe’s animal welfare standards are amongst the highest in the world is a priority for us. With this technology, we will be avoiding the systematic killing of millions of male chicks throughout the European Union. This is a major step in our work to strengthen animal welfare standards in our Union.”
Bruins founded In Ovo with a fellow student in biomedical sciences, Wil Stutterheim, and the two have been working for the last 12 years on a fast, cheap way for farmers to determine the sex of a fertilised chick egg. The result is the Ella machine, which can determine the sex of an egg from the ninth day of incubation by piercing the shell and extracting a tiny sample of fluid. The first machine was successfully tested in 2020, enabling 300,000 chicks to hatch without a single male being killed.
In Ovo provides the tests as a service, working within the hatcheries to set up the machine. The company currently has 3 machines operating at hatcheries in the Netherlands and Belgium and plans to have 10 machines running in the hatcheries of egg producers by the end of 2024.
Several European countries – including Germany, France and Austria – have banned the practice of culling day-old male chicks. Others, such as Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, are moving towards a ban or have industrywide agreements in place to stop culling. The European Union is also considering legislation to outlaw the practice.