In the competitive world of agriculture, it’s becoming increasingly important for farmers to be able to make educated decisions when purchasing livestock. That’s where Delta Genomics comes in – the company provides innovative genomic testing for both the livestock industry and researchers. Today “Genomics” is used to evaluate the potential value of an animal for breeding or at market by scoring many, many, of the animal’s genes (DNA) rather than looking at one or a few genes.
It sounds like something from science fiction, but the relatively new field has been making dramatic gains in the livestock sector including the economically important commercial cattle market comprised of 5 million new animals per year in Canada. For livestock, traits measured often include how fast the animal will grow, how it grades, how it will eat in terms of marbling or tenderness and increasingly how much it costs to produce and the environmental footprint (both of these are related to feed efficiency).
“Genomic tools can help to predict these traits by providing score for genetic merit of the animal,” says Delta Genomics CEO Michelle Miller, “It is really a more accurate EPD [Expeded Progeny Difference] when it comes to it.”
Delta Genomics was initially created within the University of Alberta’s Livestock Gentec, an Alberta Innovates Centre for livestock research before spinning out on its own in 2014, and has resided at TEC Centre in Enterprise Square ever since. The company’s goal is to improve the sustainability, competitiveness and profitability of the Canadian livestock industry.
Today, Delta Genomics works for industry as well as with researchers and provides genotyping, biobanking, sequencing, and contract research services to help customers find a solution or point them in the right direction when making breeding decisions.
“We provide a translation service, transitioning from science to solution in order to assist our industry partners” says Michelle. “We’re part of the commercialization pipeline. Delta’s job is to pull research ‘off the shelf’ and create practical applications for the industry.”
In addition to being a TEC tenant, Delta Genomics has worked closely with TEC Edmonton even prior to its inception with TEC Edmonton providing critical assistance towards the initial application and subsequent marketing plan submitted to Western Economic Diversification in order to receive initial funding. TEC has also worked with Delta Genomics on regulatory aspects, and development of best practices.
Delta Genomics recently launched their first product, EnVigour HX™, the first made in Canada genomics tool for crossbred beef cattle. The product helps customers crossbreed strategically by combining parentage verification, genomic breed composition, and a Vigour Score that serves as an indicator of overall fertility, longevity, etc. The product provides vital information that breeders can use to determine whether an animal should be used for breeding or for meat.
“It’s basically Ancestry.com for cows,” explains Clinton Brons, VP of Sales and Marketing.
“EnVigour HXTMis simple and easy to use. It was developed as a result of collaborative research conducted by the UofA’s Livestock Gentec together with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers at the Lacombe Research Centre,” says Michelle. “Without that research, we would have never been able to create it.”
Michelle and Clinton name Livestsock Gentec, the Canadian beef breeds and TEC Edmonton as their pillars of success throughout the process: “TEC Edmonton gave us shelter from the storm,” says Michelle, “And the beef breeds have been extremely supportive as our largest customers.”
When Selene Yuen wanted to scale up her business with a bigger space, she got what she wished for. Selenium, a local Edmonton fabricator of kitchens, cabinetry, and millwork, has recently upgraded from a 5,000 square foot shop to a 21,000 square foot facility, thanks in part to a partnership with TEC Edmonton.
The company, founded in Toronto by Selene’s partner John, creates custom cabinetry and woodwork for luxury homes and commercial interiors. Their 10-person team includes trained cabinetmakers educated in Germany, a country renowned for its high standards of woodworking and technical education.
In a partnership initiated by IRAP, Selene and John worked with TEC Edmonton’s Business Development team in late 2015 to develop 2 focused Growth Plans. Since then, they have invested in specialized software which expands their production capacity through automation. Presently, IRAP continues to support them with additional funding.
Growth opportunities were identified in detail, as well as a defined path for the company’s direction in the next 3-5 years. “We came up with relevant and meaningful information,” says Selene.
Two priorities were identified as a result: to physically grow the business by expanding its shop space, and to hone in on the business pipeline and focus the company’s efforts on designing and producing Canadian-made luxury kitchens. TEC Edmonton’s business development team performed a market feasibility study, a three-year financial plan, completed projections, as well as interviews within Selenium’s network to gain a sense of where people thought the company should go.
“We’re looking forward to putting it into action now that we have the capacity to take on more work,” says Selene. “It’s kind of exciting.”
Implementing the new growth plans means that Selenium will add another layer to its “every job is custom” approach for large, custom homes. Now, the company will design a line of kitchens with a palette of available options that clients can choose from. Their product will still be made locally in Edmonton, but no longer has to be designed from scratch if that level of customization is not required.
“We’ve turned away a lot of work in the last few years,” explains Selene. “We knew we needed to do something to grow.”
The dust is still settling in the new shop, as the Selenium team focuses on unpacking and optimizing the new space. They’ll soon be ready to start fabricating again.
In their line of work, Selene and her partner John see a lot of custom-built, luxury kitchens. So what’s the next big thing for kitchen design? “We went to Europe for the EuroCucina trade show last year, and saw a lot of tech integration,” Selene explains. “Now we’re looking at incorporating automation, lighting, and assistive technologies for aging populations, so people can stay in their homes longer.”
Overall, Selene recalls that bringing in an outside perspective to help with the business was a smart move: “It’s easy for entrepreneurs to get stuck in their silos day after day,” she remarked. “We really appreciate what [TEC Edmonton] brings to the table. It’s great to have sage advice from people who have seen more.”
In honour of International Women’s Day, we recognize the important contributions women make to Canada’s technology and innovation space as well as seek to understand how to better serve the women currently occupying the space.
This report from Carleton University outlines how contributions from women to Canada’s innovation space can benefit the nation, and how to address existing knowledge gaps.
We asked some of the women from TEC Edmonton to weigh in on their experiences. Here’s what they had to say:
Lan Tan, Director of Entrepreneurship Development
“To inspire more female entrepreneurs to join the technology innovation community, I would like to see more female entrepreneurs as role models to inspire the girls early on as well as other aspiring female entrepreneurs that anything is possible. Seeing the successes of these women will inspire them that they too can achieve success in the highly competitive environments.”
Aggie Mikulski, Business Consultant
“Attract young women by fuelling their passion to make a difference. Show them how career choices in innovation positively transform our society. Focus on highlighting a wide variety of female role models. Promote role model profiles from across industries, SME and MNE settings as well as academic and public sectors. Aptitude and ability are only one part of the success equation. Attitude is the other critical piece. Thus, assist women in persevering and breaking through the glass ceiling by facilitating access to dedicated mentors and sponsors. Support networks are a critical component of maintaining well-being and reaching success.”
Lauren Mercier, Business Development Specialist
“Encourage women to grow their business and become spokes-”people” for the female entrepreneur community. Alberta is lacking in the number of women who grow their businesses, and perhaps this is where we can focus our support. We could help them by providing a support system, whether that is education (ie business, marketing, international expansion, etc.), mentorship/guidance, networking, or financial support, that will give them the confidence to take the risk.”
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