Improved Animal Genetics and Breeding for Methane Reduction

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

Improved animal genetics and breeding involve utilizing advanced genetic selection and breeding techniques to develop livestock breeds with desirable traits, such as lower methane emissions, improved feed efficiency, and enhanced disease resistance. By selecting and breeding animals with these advantageous genetic characteristics, the environmental footprint of livestock production can be significantly reduced.

Impact on climate action

Improved animal genetics and breeding significantly reduces livestock methane emissions and enhances feed efficiency. This innovation fosters climate action by curbing greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, mitigating environmental degradation, and promoting sustainable livestock production, thereby contributing to global efforts in combating climate change.

Underlying
Technology

This approach leverages a combination of cutting-edge genetic technologies and traditional breeding practices:

  • Genomic Selection: Utilizing genomic data, such as DNA sequencing and genotyping, to identify genetic markers associated with desired traits, enabling breeders to select animals with superior genetic potential for lower emissions and improved efficiency.
  • Quantitative Genetics: Applying statistical models and data analysis techniques to predict the inheritance of complex traits, such as methane emissions and feed efficiency, allowing for more accurate selection of breeding animals.
  • Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Technologies like artificial insemination and embryo transfer can accelerate the dissemination of desirable genetic traits within livestock populations.
  • Genome Editing: Emerging genome editing technologies, such as CRISPR-Cas9, hold the potential to precisely modify specific genes related to methane production or feed efficiency, offering a more targeted approach to genetic improvement.
  • Phenotypic Data Collection: Collecting data on animal performance, such as methane emissions, feed intake, and growth rates, is crucial for identifying animals with superior traits and validating the effectiveness of genetic selection programs.

TRL : Varies (4-7) depending on the specific technology and trait being targeted.

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Microbiome-Informed Breeding: Researchers are studying the relationship between the animal’s gut microbiome and methane emissions, aiming to select and breed animals with microbiomes that produce less methane.
  • Methane Trait Selection: Developing accurate and reliable methods for measuring methane emissions from individual animals is crucial for identifying low-emitting animals for breeding programs.
  • Feed Efficiency Genomics: Genomic selection is being used to identify genetic markers associated with improved feed efficiency, enabling the breeding of animals that require less feed per unit of product.
  • Genomic Selection for Disease Resistance: Breeding animals with enhanced disease resistance can reduce the need for antibiotics and improve overall animal health and welfare, indirectly reducing emissions associated with disease treatment and mortality.
  • Gene Editing for Methane Reduction: Research is exploring the use of genome editing technologies to directly modify genes involved in methane production pathways, offering a potential for significant emission reductions.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Genus plc:
    • Technology Enhancements: Genus plc is a global leader in animal genetics, specializing in the development and application of innovative breeding technologies. Their focus may include genomic selection, marker-assisted breeding, and advanced reproductive technologies.
    • Uniqueness: Genus plc distinguishes itself through its extensive research and development efforts in animal genetics. They likely leverage cutting-edge biotechnology to enhance traits such as disease resistance, feed efficiency, and product quality in livestock.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions cater to a wide range of livestock industries, including dairy, beef, swine, and poultry production. Farmers and ranchers seeking to improve the productivity and profitability of their herds are among their primary customers.
  • Cooks Venture:
    • Technology Enhancements: Cooks Venture may focus on sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices, including genetic selection for traits that enhance soil health, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. They might also integrate digital technologies for data-driven breeding decisions.
    • Uniqueness: Cooks Venture stands out for its holistic approach to animal genetics and breeding, emphasizing regenerative agriculture and environmental stewardship. They may prioritize heritage breeds and heirloom genetics for unique flavor profiles and biodiversity conservation.
    • End-User Segments: Their products target consumers looking for sustainably produced meat and poultry with superior taste, nutrition, and environmental credentials. Additionally, they may collaborate with farmers and ranchers committed to regenerative farming practices.
  • Benchmark Genetics:
    • Technology Enhancements: Benchmark Genetics likely specializes in aquaculture genetics, focusing on selective breeding programs to improve traits such as growth rate, disease resistance, and fillet quality in fish and shellfish species. They might also employ genomic selection and biotechnology tools.
    • Uniqueness: Benchmark Genetics is known for its expertise in aquaculture genetics and its dedication to sustainable seafood production. They might offer tailored genetic solutions for different species and production systems, considering factors like water quality and climate resilience.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions serve the global aquaculture industry, including producers of salmon, trout, shrimp, tilapia, and other farmed seafood. Fish farmers seeking to enhance the performance and profitability of their operations rely on Benchmark Genetics for advanced breeding services.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Technology Enhancements: Wageningen researchers are employing advanced genomic techniques such as genomic selection and marker-assisted breeding to improve the genetic makeup of livestock breeds. By identifying and selecting animals with desirable traits such as feed efficiency and methane emissions, they aim to develop breeds that produce less greenhouse gas emissions per unit of output.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Wageningen’s approach involves a combination of traditional breeding methods with cutting-edge genomic technologies to accelerate the genetic improvement of livestock for reduced emissions. They are also studying the interactions between genetics, diet, and environment to optimize the breeding strategies further.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Wageningen has implications for the livestock industry, particularly in dairy and beef production. By breeding animals with lower methane emissions and higher feed efficiency, farmers can reduce the environmental footprint of their operations while improving profitability.
  • University of Edinburgh:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are leveraging genomic data and bioinformatics tools to unravel the genetic basis of methane emissions in livestock species such as cattle and sheep. They are identifying genetic markers associated with low methane production and incorporating this information into breeding programs to select animals with reduced emissions potential.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Edinburgh’s research focuses on understanding the complex genetic mechanisms underlying methane production in ruminant animals. By elucidating the genetic factors influencing methane emissions, they aim to develop targeted breeding strategies for mitigating emissions without compromising animal productivity or health.
    • End-use Applications: The research outcomes from the University of Edinburgh have practical applications for livestock breeders and farmers seeking to reduce emissions from their herds. By selecting animals with favorable genetic traits for low methane emissions, farmers can contribute to environmental sustainability while maintaining or even enhancing the performance of their livestock.
  • Iowa State University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Iowa State University are employing a combination of traditional breeding methods, genomic selection, and metabolic studies to improve the feed efficiency and reduce methane emissions in livestock species such as pigs and poultry. They are investigating the genetic and physiological factors influencing methane production and designing breeding programs to select animals with lower emissions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Iowa State’s research integrates genetic, physiological, and environmental factors to develop holistic solutions for reducing emissions from livestock production. They are also exploring novel feed additives and management practices to complement genetic improvements and further mitigate methane emissions.
    • End-use Applications: The research findings from Iowa State University are relevant for the swine, poultry, and dairy industries, where reducing emissions is a priority for sustainable production. By incorporating genetic selection for reduced methane emissions into breeding programs, producers can lower their environmental footprint and improve the overall sustainability of livestock production systems.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Improved animal genetics are already being implemented in commercial livestock production:

  • Dairy Cattle Breeding Programs: Several breeding programs for dairy cattle select for lower methane emissions and improved feed efficiency, contributing to more sustainable milk production.
  • Pig Breeding Programs: Genetic selection for improved feed efficiency and disease resistance is widely implemented in pig production, reducing the environmental footprint of pork production.