FFAR Prize Seeks to Revolutionize Egg Production, Improving Animal Welfare and Saving Billions

MAUI (Oct. 17, 2018) – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) today previewed the Egg-Tech Prize at the United Egg Producers’ (UEP) Annual Board Meeting and Executive Conference. FFAR plans to offer up to $6 million in prizes for developing technologies that can accurately and quickly determine the sex of layer chick eggs before they hatch.

Skilled workers in the egg industry are only able to identify the sex of the chick after it hatches. For the 6 billion laying hens hatched each year worldwide, a similar number of male chicks are produced that never make it to market. The male chicks, once hatched, are unsuitable for consumption due to poor growth performance and meat quality. As there is no need currently for the male chicks, they are culled, creating major challenges for animal welfare, food waste, farm profitability and energy usage. This practice, known as male chick culling requires the industry to devote significant time and resources to incubating the male eggs only to cull them later.

“Male chick culling is a challenge that must be solved. However, promising scientific advancements indicate that it’s possible to develop a scalable technology to determine an egg’s sex before it hatches,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “Solving this challenge would not only improve animal welfare, but also save egg producers billions while adding eggs to the food supply.”

“UEP and our farmer-members commend FFAR for coordinating this valuable incentive to encourage researchers to move swiftly to identify meaningful, scalable solutions to this issue,” said Chad Gregory, UEP president and CEO. “Assuring the health and well-being of animals simply is the right thing to do. As such, we have an obligation to support practices and technologies that improve animal welfare across egg production, and this extends to finding an economically feasible, commercially viable alternative to the practice of male chick culling at hatcheries.”

Current approaches to solving this challenge range from gene-editing to measuring an egg’s hormone levels to determine its sex. FFAR is confident that the industry can build on recent advancements in sensor technologies, engineering and biological sciences to develop a technology that both successfully determines an egg’s sex before it hatches and can be integrated into existing production systems.

If new technologies allow egg producers to determine the chick’s sex early in incubation, over 6 billion male eggs could be directed into the food supply or vaccine production. Furthermore, if an appropriate technology is developed, the industry stands to save between $1.5 -$2.5 billion each year.

FFAR plans to begin accepting Egg-Tech Prize applications in early 2019.

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Overcoming Water Scarcity

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Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.

FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.

Protein Challenge

Protein Challenge

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.

The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.

Food Waste and Loss

Food Waste and Loss

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About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.

Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability

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Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.

Urban Food Systems

Urban Food Systems

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The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.

The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.

Making My Plate Your Plate

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.