Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a three-part series on the growing field of genomics and bioinformatics in the Silicon66 region, which includes Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, New Mexico and Arizona. Through this series, we are taking a snapshot look at not only the industry of genomics, but at some of the region’s tech startups delving into this field.
When Sean Akadiri moved to Oklahoma from Nigeria to attend college, he planned to be a doctor. He did not imagine he would become an entrepreneur, no less an entrepreneur who decodes livestock genomic data for the cattle industry.
In fact, if he hadn’t randomly picked the state of Oklahoma as a possible choice for college while in Nigeria, he’s certain he wouldn’t be the emerging entrepreneur he is today, marketing a unique Cloud-based software designed to use bioinformatics and genetic testing to help cattle producers improve the performance of their livestock.
“Being an entrepreneur wasn’t even in my state of mind,” said Akadiri. “But Oklahoma made me who I am. A lot of people were very supportive of my vision, and it’s very personal to me that this company stays in Oklahoma and when people look at Oklahoma, they see Oklahoma like they do Silicon Valley.”
Akadiri’s company, Agric-Bioinformatics, was formed in 2013 as a way to revolutionize how large and small cattle producers manage their stock through “easy, affordable access to detailed, user-friendly genetic information” that is displayed on a colorful and easy-to-use platform.
However, the idea for a detailed genetic decoding platform didn’t actually come from cattle, but from paternity tests and white-tailed deer.
“After college, I worked for DNA Solutions, and that’s where the idea started. The company did DNA testing for human paternity tests, but parental testing for white tail deer,” Akadiri said. “All these hunting ranches, there is a huge market for white tail deer. If I’m selling you a buck, you want big antlers, big weight. So the company would validate that buck for private hunting operations through paternal testing. It’s big business… to shoot one of those big bucks can cost up to $50,000.”
The deer genetics operation made Adakiri question why the same type of genetic coding and testing was not being used for cattle or other livestock. Although genetic data on cattle was available, it wasn’t commercialized and tended to be complicated, confusing and overwhelming for cattle producers to use.
“I wanted to find a way to integrate and really push that data to the producers in a useful way,” Akadiri said. “So I grabbed a pen and paper and starting writing down information.”
Through years of phone calls, research, being told his idea wouldn’t work and more tweaking, Agric-Bioinformatics was born. Agric-Bioinformatics created an accessible, user-friendly system that not only includes nutrigenomics information like how diet affects gene expression in cattle, but also livestock operation tools and monitoring tools. AgBoost, a Cloud-based platform, is a one-of-a-kind snapshot that allows both major cattle operations and family ranchers to interpret genomic data of their herd in order to better manage health and quality.
Akadiri needed a team to achieve that, and he found professors and experts in Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Canada and Northern Ireland. The AgBoost software combines genomic profiling from individual cattle in a herd and translates that information into graphs that break down breeding, nutrition, health and environment for the herd over time.
Akadiri also reached out to i2e, a not-for-profit that works directly with entrepreneurs, researchers and companies to help them commercialize their technologies, launch and grow new businesses and access needed capital. Six months later, Akadiri learned he won an EPSCOR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant.
“Before that, I started the company with no funding, but having a team in place helped,” Akadiri said. “After EPSCOR, people started taking me seriously, and i2e made me a client. Ever since then, I’ve had different partners. It’s a process.”
The beta prototype for the platform will be released by the end of the year, and Adakiri said he hopes the full platform will be available commercially next year.
“Our ultimate goal is to have beef you buy in the supermarket be ‘AgBoost certified.’ With all that data we push out, the importance of the data is ultimately to push quality product,” Akadiri said. “People today are very interested in what they eat, and they want a level of confidence and increased value of the food they eat. That’s the end goal of AgBoost. You can know the history of the animal you are eating when you order out at a restaurant through the AgBoost app.”
Future plans are to also offer the same platform and data graphs for other livestock as well, like sheep, goats and swine.
“I’m proud that this technology is from Oklahoma,” he said. “I’m proud to call Oklahoma home. This just proves you can make anything happen wherever you are if you have the support.”