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.”