By Jeff Elkins | The Norman Transcript Jul 19, 2020
A Norman resident’s agricultural technology platform is helping livestock producers increase transparency and efficiency amid the COVID-19 pandemic by using genetic profiling.
Sean Akadiri created AgBoost to provide analytics on the genetics, health and nutrition of livestock to producers, so they can make more informed decisions and create safer food products.
Akadiri, who has a background in science, said he noticed a lot of ranchers were physically appraising their animals with little to no information to back it up, which can lead to inefficient spending on medicine, food and housing costs.
The genetic information AgBoost supplies can help ranchers get the most out of their animals, Akadiri said.
“Ultimately you might put in $2,000 into an animal before you start seeing return, and if that animal is not giving you quality calves consistently, that’s a huge loss,” Akadiri said. “What our technology does is, it helps you understand what is going on with the cattle and sell your animal with that information to your potential buyers, giving them confidence.”
Before starting AgBoost, Akadiri worked with a company that focused on the genetics of white tailed deer, which are bred for their big antlers. The work got him thinking about taking that science to livestock, he said.
“We used genetics to help breed and trace down lineages. I didn’t know they were using genetics to help with selective breeding,” Akadiri said. “The problem was, ranchers were using Excel, and it was difficult to use this information because it wasn’t interactive enough, and I thought if people are using deer genetics for hunting, what about people in the cattle industry?”
Akadiri said at that time, only large scale ranchers were using genetics because they had the resources to outsource for professional assistance, and they only had Excel to organize that data. He said in the cattle industry, 90 percent of the producers are small.
Akadiri also knew transparency was of growing importance, and consumers wanted to know where their food is coming from, he said.
“I thought, ‘(I want) to allow them to have access to analytics, and also help them to visually understand it,’” Akadiri said. “It could create value and help ranchers maximize and sell their animals for a premium price and tell their story.”
AgBoost is now used worldwide as a registered trademark for people in Mexico, Brazil, Canada and even Bulgaria, with clients of all sizes, including the Noble Research Institute and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.
Through AgBoost’s new online marketplace, which came out last month, local beef buyers can connect to farms to buy beef directly. Akadiri said the feature comes at an important time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Packing plants were heavily backed up because of COVID-19, and it was difficult for cattle producers to sell their animals because of this,” Akadiri said. “We created a way for them to be able to sell beef directly to consumers, and on an individual basis, we have seen producers are able to sell their animals for $600 or $700 more than they might without the data.”
Akadiri and his team created the marketplace in conjunction with the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. Ranchers have their own account so they can create markets tailored to them.
Akadiri said AgBoost helps producers understand the value of generational data and predict carcass traits like marbling, tenderness and ribeye characteristics. The tech also streamlines the process for the next person to take over a ranch and retain value.
Craig Guffey, owner of CG Cattle and Swearingen Angus in Lawrence, Kansas, said AgBoost has provided visual confirmation for the quality of bloodlines he has used for over 30 years. Today, his family owns and operates 2500 acres in northeast Kansas, and runs around 800 head of cattle.
In the fall of 2017, Guffey noticed he was not getting what he needed to advance the family cattle business through the American Angus Association. He said the AAA’s strategy is based on marketing, rather than true breeding science, and knew his ranch needed to make a change.
Guffey found AgBoost at the Kansas Cattlemen’s Convention, and ended up sending in a DNA sample from some of his cattle for analysis.
“Through AgBoost, we saw that our cattle were extremely balanced and consistent in their genetic value,” Guffey said. “The consistency that kept us moving forward throughout the last three decades was verified, but we knew after that that we needed to move away from the AAA.”
Guffey said his customers love to look at the data provided by AgBoost because it’s easy to understand.
“When they come to our bull sales, they understand what their cows need — for example, more leaning weight, more tenderness, all those things are easily shown on the graphs,” Guffey said. “(The AAA wants) you searching for the biggest, but AgBoost gives you the ability to select exactly what you need.”
With the consistency the tech helps him provide, Guffey said customers are happier at every level, which gives his business greater economic sustainability and longevity.
“My brother-in-law and my sister and I are the first generation, but then we’ve got a 20 year old on the ranch and they’re having kids now, and our goal is to build this as sustainable as possible for generations,” Guffey said.
Akadiri said the ultimate goal is to become the Facebook of the livestock industry. He said while beef was the entry point, this technology can be used for everything livestock related.
“In the past, the agriculture industry tended to shy away from technology, but COVID-19 really has exposed a lot of issues everywhere when it comes to not being able to integrate it,” Akadiri said. “(AgBoost) is all digital, built in Oklahoma, but can be used anywhere in the world.”
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