A Texas startup, EmGenisys, was named runner up in the American Farm Bureau Federation Ag Innovation Challenge, winning $20,000. EmGenisys is an animal ag tech company developing software solutions to evaluate bovine embryo health to improve pregnancy outcomes of conventional embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization. The technology can be used to verify that each embryo transferred into recipients is viable, and aid in standardizing the embryo evaluation process for technicians and veterinarians.

The 2023 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge seeks to identify top entrepreneurs working to address challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The challenge provides opportunities for Farm Bureau members to showcase business innovations being developed for agriculture.

“Presenting in the Final Four and winning a top prize at the Challenge is further validation that our technology can improve the current status quo of beef and dairy production” says Dr. Cara Wells, founder and CEO of EmGenisys. “Embryo transfer and IVF has brought about formative change to the beef and dairy industry. These breeding techniques have created genetic gains in today’s beef and dairy herds, improving animal health, performance, and efficiency but pregnancy outcomes have not improved in the past 40 years. Our technology has the potential to significantly improve pregnancy outcomes to maximize the investment of using assisted reproductive techniques in livestock.”

Dr. Cara Wells and Dr. Russell Killingsworth, EmGenisys’ Chief Veterinary Officer, detailed the company’s problem, technology, market opportunity and benefit to the livestock producers and rural large animal veterinarians in the company’s pitch during the American Farm Bureau Federation semi-finals pitch and finalist pitch in front of a live audience.

“We have developed a practical and affordable solution to evaluate cattle embryo health in real-time for use in the lab or farm. The veterinarian simply records short 30 second videos of the embryos on their smartphone mounted to a microscope and uploads the videos into our web-based platform. Our software system scans the videos frame-by-frame, scanning each embryo for signs of life. The veterinarian can then use this objective data to select only the healthiest embryo for transfer and improve pregnancy outcomes up to 20%” Wells said.

EmGenisys will use the funds from the Ag Innovation Challenge to continue product development and data collection, to ensure that the launched product is robust and can perform in any livestock embryology setting. With enough data, the product is expected to outperform the current embryo grading system which is subjective and relies on the experience and competence of the veterinarian or technician grading the system.

“Computers can detect and measure image details that the human eye and brain cannot. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence to evaluate embryo development in real-time seemed like a fantastic application for advanced ai/ml technologies,” said Wells. “We aim to empower veterinarians with objective data regarding the health, stress and metabolic function of embryos, so they can feel confident each embryo transferred is alive, healthy and capable of establishing a pregnancy which survives to term. Ware so proud that the Farm Bureau judges share our vision and recognize this value so we can improve the profitability of the American cattle producer.”

“The start-up companies we’re recognizing today are committed to helping rural communities and supporting farmers and ranchers in their mission to provide the food, fuel and fiber we all rely on,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “The four finalists are all impressive, and I am confident that they are going to succeed. More broadly, the innovative solutions developed by these entrepreneurs are helping shape the future of agriculture.”

The Ag Innovation Challenge was evaluated by a three-person judging panel: Ricardo Fernandez, president and CEO, Puerto Rico Farm Credit; George Gough, policy and advocacy programs manager, Bayer CropScience; and Patricia Ramírez, collaborator, Grupo Guayacán Inc.

AFBF recognized these innovative businesses, in partnership with sponsors Farm Credit, Bayer Crop Science, John Deere, Farm Bureau Bank and Farm Bureau Financial Services.

Learn more about EmGenisys at EmGenisys.co.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2024 Ag Innovation Challenge. Learn more at fb.org/challenge.