Research Foundation News

June 18, 2021

New mobile health diagnostic for animal breeding may help meet growing demand for food

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University-affiliated, woman-owned startup is working to use mobile artificial intelligence technology to help meet the growing demand for food expected over the next several decades.

Verility LLC develops and markets patented technologies that use proprietary machine learning frameworks for rapid, low-cost and accurate assessment of livestock semen and ovulation samples.

"Fertile-Eyez, our advanced technology platform, offers real-time precision data for animal reproduction. No specialized training is required," said Liane Hart, CEO of Verility and an alumna of Purdue's College of Agriculture. "Improvements in sperm analysis and ovulation detection for animal breeding are two of the most important ways to meet the critical need for more edible protein. Conception rate is highly correlated with producer profitability and food sustainability; we believe Fertile-Eyez will play a key role in the breeding sheds and labs around the world to assist with this effort."

Hart said Fertile-Eyez is a cloud-based mHealth, or mobile health, technology that can provide immediate animal-side testing by rapidly analyzing semen for morphology, motility and concentration along with saliva ferning for ovulation detection.

"It is like having a skilled laboratory technician and a microscope in the palm of your hand," Hart said. "This fertility platform has the potential to change how testing is done in the breeding industry across all of the major livestock species, resulting in increased performance of livestock production facilities and furthering superior genetics."

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Hart said Fertile-Eyez has several benefits for end users.

"Not only is it affordable, but it completely removes all subjectivity of analysis since the person reading the sample is completely removed," Hart said. "Because it is a mobile system, it doesn't require someone to send samples to a lab or a different part of the farm for analysis.

"The three major components of semen quality – morphology, motility and concentration – are extremely important in animal breeding and can be often underanalyzed due to labor and time shortages or the ability to have the right machine in the right location at an affordable price.  On top of that, estrus detection is a very labor-intensive and time-consuming procedure, resulting in people checking for heat detection only once a day. This results in errors as to when ovulation actually occurs leading to missed cycles and increased labor and animal costs."

The technology was invented at Brigham and Women's Hospital, a nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. It was originally developed for humans in the lab of Hadi Shafiee, a current co-founding member of Verility, to improve the user experience by allowing sample testing at home versus in-clinic. It was most recently studied for further application in boars for testing semen quality in the lab of Kara Stewart, associate professor of animal sciences at Purdue University. The data proved that the technology was highly correlated with current best practices, and the Verility team is currently working on publishing these results in a credited, peer-reviewed journal.

 

hart-verility Verility's Fertile-Eyez proof-of-concept device utilized a smartphone app in combination with a mobile hardware unit that integrated microfluidics, optics and advances in consumer electronics that proved highly correlated with current gold standards. (Photo provided by Verility) Download image

The Verility team has partnered with other swine experts throughout this development phase: The Maschhoffs, a Top 5 U.S. Pork Powerhouse company; its sister company, Acuity, a pork technology company that delivers competitive genetic resources for unique pork operations; and Summit SmartFarms, a startup that is focused on providing decision-ready information to understand cost of dysfunction in wean-to-finish systems through its SmartMargin app.

Hart has been partnering also with the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub housed in the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Purdue's Discovery Park District, to capture entrepreneurial insights and funding through established venture networks. Verility is currently seeking seed-stage funding for further development phases.

About Verility

Verility LLC is a Central Indiana startup that is focused on disrupting and optimizing breeding and fertility in animal health by leveraging image recognition and proprietary algorithms in the global animal health breeding markets. This new fertility platform is considered a breakthrough product category, creating a much-needed niche, allowing industry players access to mobile product attributes never before seen at such an affordable rate. Verility is located in Maxwell, Indiana.  More information about the company is available online.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub whose professionals help Purdue innovators create and grow startups. The Purdue Foundry is housed in the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. The Purdue Foundry has been involved with creating more than 300 companies. The Purdue Foundry is part of the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation. For more information about involvement and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today's toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Contact: Steve Martin, sgmartin@prf.org 

Source: Liane Hart, 317-997-265, liane.hart@verilityco.com


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