- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Sean Akadiri needs two things to get his tech business off the ground: money and cattle hair.

He founded a startup that aims to use existing genetic testing techniques to help ranchers improve their herds. The president and CEO of Agric-Bioformatics is in the early development stages for his Web-based application, and he’s traveled to Philadelphia, seeking investors and research collaborators.

Akadiri isn’t quite to the beta-testing stage. He received seed money from i2E to develop a prototype and initial design work. His goal is to raise $500,000 in a first round of investment by August, The Journal Record reported (http://bit.ly/1G0v59c ).

The company takes cattle hair samples, analyzes genetic information and provides the analysis in an easy-to-use, visual format.

His market research shows that 90 percent of Oklahoma ranchers use smartphones and desktop, laptop and tablet computers to run their businesses, so they are receptive to using technology.

Many producers rely on physical characteristics to breed animals, but are interested in using genetics, he said. His goal is to help producers use DNA testing to improve the breeding process but not overwhelm them with complicated science.

He’s targeting smaller producers who don’t have thousands to spend on tests and analysis.

The service will be subscription-based and include several levels, like a monthly cellphone bill, Akadiri said.

But earning a return on his investment could prove to be challenging, said Oklahoma State University Agricultural Economist Eric DeVuyst.

There are plenty of companies that provide genetic testing and analysis to cattle ranchers. The trouble is creating the right price point, he said.

“If this is going to pay, you have to show a clear economic advantage for producers to use this technology,” DeVuyst said. “That has been the challenge with genetic testing: It is difficult to recover your costs.”

In the last 15 years, the cost for cattle genetic testing has dropped significantly, and it continues to fall as technology improves, he said. Typically, a single genetic marker test costs about $40, depending on how much information a producer wants.

A Canadian public-private partnership, Geno-Canada, is working to reduce the price for those tests to about $20, while still including enough information that producers find benefits, DeVuyst said.

“It’s a tough industry,” he said. “Genetic testing has struggled to get enough business to earn the return a public corporation needs.”

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Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com

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