Most dairy farmers would prefer to mate their top cows to sex sorted semen, which produce female progeny and the bottom end of the cows to beef semen, preferably which will produce bull calves. 

Currently all sexing of semen is done through one channel which is very expensive.

High-tech microfluidic and photonic chips

Engender Technologies Limited is a New Zealand-based company that has developed an alternative technology to separate X- and Y-bearing bull sperm cells. This technology is expected to be of lower cost and cause minimal discernible damage to the cells. Sex sorting is expected to sustainably accelerate genetic gain and improve cost efficiencies in large animal reproduction.

Engender aims to achieve this through the use of high-tech microfluidic and photonic chips that are expected to sort sperm by sex at a lower cost, with less negative impact on fertility and with increased sperm retention over existing technology.

Targeting the dairy industry

The initial target is the dairy industry. Current sex sorting technology utilises fluorescence-activated cell sorting, a flow cytometry method. Sperm sorted using this technique, experience significant shear forces and electrostatic fields. This reduces the viability of the sorted sperm. In addition, high numbers of healthy sperm are discarded in order to keep the fidelity of the sex-sorting high (high % X- or Y-bearing sperm).

Engender is currently focused on developing its prototype microfluidic chip into a commercial prototype that is suitable for mass production. In parallel, the company aims to design and build a laboratory prototype instrument that operates the microfluidic chip, in order to undertake IVF5 trials and the first field AI trial.

Outperforming the competition

Engender also aims to test and optimise improvements to the technology to ensure that the technology continues to outperform the competition. Finally, Engender intends to further develop the business by seeking potential licensees, who may also be future acquirers of the company. These developments will place Engender in a strong position for an eventual mass production and commercial sales.

Engender’s technology is a sort-on-a-chip approach with integrated microfluidic and photonic components. Engender’s design is expected to achieve high efficiency and high accuracy sperm sex selection with increased viability and therefore increased expected fertility.

The chip based approach will allow for highly parallel processing to achieve high throughput, higher cell counts to improve fertilisation, and higher purity to improve sperm sex selection. The new chip and instrument is expected to have a ten-fold less capital cost than the current technology, which requires a dedicated laboratory plus capital equipment.

All of the company shares of Engender Technologies Limited has been purchased by the Dutch/Flemish Company CRV, which is represented in South Africa by its daughter company CRV Xseed. – CRV Xseed