Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge 2018

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Rex Animal Health - Big Data and Machine Learning for Optimized Yield and Disease Management

Rex is working to create the largest datasets of animal genomics data mapped to health, production, feed and medicine interaction in the world. Farm veterinarians record the animal's weight and health, care interventions, diet, medication given, and health outcomes. The platform helps the farm operator optimize yield and monitor the overall health of their stock. The platform captures human annotated data and allows Rex to map it to an animal’s genomic information. This is a unique strategic asset that enables future machine learning driven R&D in the production of animal protein, animal husbandry, and agricultural pharmaceuticals. 

Describe the problem your company wishes to solve and how your product or service will solve it

Data Standardization and Warehousing

The current state of the art in data management tools for farms are typically paper records, scanners, and some forms of electronic records (such as Excel) to keep productivity and yield records. However, health data such as the results of diagnostic tests, genetic information, feed, etc. are siloed in a vast array of other products. With all this data available, it is still very difficult to garner insights, so Rex has created an algorithm that can 1) automatically turn paper records into electronic records, and 2) standardize disparate sets into a form that can be easily digested for real-time or historic analysis. 

In addition to providing this data standardization technology, we maintain secure cloud based data warehousing so that this data can be access anywhere and anytime from any computer, smartphone or tablet.

The ability of this data warehousing allows for digital farm management tools and a one stop shop for integrated information from across the livestock supply chain.

Data Analytics for Improved Yield and Disease Management

With the data in one place and in one standardized form, it is then simple to apply “big data” and “machine learning” techniques in order to understand and find out what the story of the data is. As such, at Rex, we have developed numerous data visualization and analytics tools in order to enable the livestock producer, veterinarian, or R&D scientist to determine the following:

Clinical Decision Support

There are numerous protocols in place for when an animal is thought to be sick. By looking at both historic records and understanding the data from other nearby farms, Rex is able to provide caretakers with clinical decision support tools to identify the most likely cause of the symptom thereby saving time and potentially the animal’s life in the case of life threatening infections.

Current use cases have shown that we have been able to identify potential causes up to five times faster than conventional multi-pathogen panels by focusing on which diseases have historically appeared in both the area and on the farm thereby saving time and money.

Health and Efficacy Outcomes of Drugs and Nutritional Feed Products 

Not only are we able to identify the potential cause, but by looking at the clinical and genomic data stored on animals and their various pathogens, we are able to identify the products that would lead to the best health and efficacy outcomes in the animal. Further, we are able to show not only which products are useful, but we are able to show which products no longer have any efficacy on the farm.

A simple test case involved farmers constantly relying on a certain antibiotic for cases of respiratory and gastrointestinal infection. Upon examination in our platform, it was revealed that the product was ineffective 95% of the time, thereby leading the producer to stop using the product saving time and over $500K (US) a year by no longer purchasing the product.

Another use case involves looking at the efficacy of nutritional feed products. One such customer found a certain product was tied to not only improved weight gain and feed conversion, but also to a reduction in skin issues which led to bacterial infection thereby increasing meat yield by close to 30%.

Disease Monitoring and Surveillance

Understanding when and where disease can pop up is very important in maintaining a healthy and active herd while also improving biosecurity on the farm. By looking at historic trends and while also maintaining close to real time record keeping of active diagnostic tests throughout the farms, we enable our customers to actively monitor for disease clusters for faster veterinary intervention for improved outcomes.

We go beyond by using the historic and real-time data in order to predict potential disease transmission pathways both on and off the farm. By understanding mutational pressures for pathogens, we are able to help the animal health industry further mitigate risk from potential devastating losses caused by disease endemics and epidemics while also providing transparency into the animal supply chain. 

Genetic Testing for Breeding, Performance Benchmarking, and Research

In addition to our data-as-a-service offering described above, we have partnered with active service labs globally in order to provide state of the art genomic testing for livestock and other animals of high commercial value. We employ next generation sequencing in order to show the various genes that an animal possess thereby enabling livestock producers to make smarter breeding decisions to have the desired characteristics in the herd.

Not only do we provide simple genotyping, but we use state of the art next gen sequencing techniques in order to understand how environment and various practices can be involved in gene expression. By correlating this data together, we are able to tell livestock producers whether or not certain practices are having an epigenetic effect which can affect whether certain genes (such as for meat marbling, feed conversion, etc.) are being “turned on” or “turned off” which can be passed onto the next generation.

Finally, we provide whole genome association studies which can not only reveal what metabolic pathways are involved for better quality product, but can also identify potential disease susceptibility or disease resistance genes within a herd. This will allow not only for optimization of breeding programs on an agronomic output basis, but can be used for disease resistant herds without resulting to gene editing technology.


Describe other business assistance that you are seeking from Nutreco

We are asking that Nutreco assist us in gathering data from the various producers that they are involved with and to gather animal samples at various stages (birthing, backgrounding, and production) in order to find epigenetic thresholds for gene expression for feed conversion.

Are you available to participate in the final event in the Netherlands 28, 29, and 30 May? All expenses will be covered by Nutreco


Describe how the prize - a validation trial in our facilities - could boost the development of your business

A partnership with Nutreco would help us 1) tweak our algorithms in order to find the effect of nutritional feed additives and other nutrition products in determining the health and efficacy outcomes of animals, and 2) hep us establish a level of methylation (epigenetic effect) on feed conversion with regards to environment and other aspects (health, nutrition, disease, etc) that could drastically change animal husbandry. 

If you already have a website for your business, please share the URL

edited on 19th February 2018, 17:02 by Amado Guloy

teresa debesa 3 weeks ago

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone.

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AdanG 3 weeks ago

To the next stage.

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Benny Van Haandel 2 weeks ago

Hi Amado, thanks for participating here. I have a quick question. What large databases dp you have currently access to? Can you give some examples of the kind of databases and the volume of records you have? Best regards,

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Amado Guloy 1 week ago

Hi Benny,

The main databases we have access to are proprietary in that they come from the livestock producers that we work with. We have data that spans over the course over a decade if only because we're able to convert paper records into digital records with ease.

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David Peggs 1 week ago

Hi Amado, excellent idea and thanks for submitting. I have a particular interest in genomics and mapping the microbiome as a means to optimise animal health. Just a couple of questions: Is microbial mapping one of the analyses tools Rex will contain? Secondly, There are already a number of databases for assessing, for example, antimicrobial resistant genes (e.g. MEGARes, ARDB, DeepARG etc..). Do you plan to incorporate these and other databases for this type of analyses or is there a plan to develop a new platforms/databases?
Thanks, David

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Amado Guloy 1 week ago

Hi David,

We have developed DNA barcodes that can identity bacterial species down to serovar level. We have other metagenomics tools beyond 16S in the works that we are still testing and doing scientific validation (ie writing papers and getting them peer reviewed). The various databases we access are primarily proprietary, but we are tapping into publicly available databases especially for AMR genes. Thanks!

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