Israeli chicken sex-change start-up wins $1m prize in NY agri-tech contest

Soos' software allows them to control the incubation process, forcing chicken embryos to change sex in the egg, mitigating the controversial practice of culling male chicks.

Founder and CEO Yael Alter, along with VP of Business Development Alon Gozlan receive the news that their start-up, Soos Technologies, has won the $1 million grand prize at the NY-Grow competition. (photo credit: SOOS TECHNOLOGIES)
Founder and CEO Yael Alter, along with VP of Business Development Alon Gozlan receive the news that their start-up, Soos Technologies, has won the $1 million grand prize at the NY-Grow competition.
(photo credit: SOOS TECHNOLOGIES)
On Monday, Soos Technology, an Israeli start-up based in Kidron won the $1 million grand prize from Grow-NY, a global food and agriculture business competition administered by Cornell University and funded by the State of New York.
Its award-winning innovation? The company uses AI-driven software to control the incubation process of chicken embryos in a manner which allows them to change sex from male to female, thus mitigating one of the most controversial problems of the poultry industry: the culling of male chicks. 
Every year, commercial hatcheries around the world produce 15 billion chicks: roughly half of which are females that can lay eggs, but the other approximately 7.5 billion are males that have no commercial use and are therefore exterminated after they hatch.
The culling process has drawn heavy criticism from animal rights organizations for years, as farmers are known to use cruel and abusive methods to kill the chicks such as shredding, suffocation, carbon-dioxide gassing, electrocution and cervical dislocation (breaking the neck).
In addition, the process of chick culling demands massive amounts of energy, water, incubation space, and production capacity that could be used to instead ensure better food security worldwide.
Scientists have known for years that chickens have been known, in rare occasions of a malfunction with the left ovary, to undergo a natural sex change process in which the right ovotesis begins to function as an ovary instead of developing into a testicle.
Soos' AI-software allows farmers to control the humidity, temperature, CO2 levels, and sound vibrations in the incubation cell and customize them in a manner which affects the sex development process.
“I want to congratulate all the companies that took place in the second round of our Grow-NY Competition," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "The innovations these companies have helped drive are creating a lasting economic impact on New York's agribusiness as we continue our work to build our economy back better.
"The Grow-NY targeted investment will not only help these companies continue to innovate, but will further support New York state's regional economies by drawing even more worldwide attention to our globally renowned food and agriculture industry," he added.
Competition finalists each received 10 minutes to share their pitch and 10 minutes for questions. In addition to the $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes, and four $250,000 prizes were awarded at the event. This year, 264 companies applied to the competition including startups from 27 countries.
"We are excited about the potential that these entrepreneurs have to continue to make the industry even stronger. These companies are developing ideas and plans to revolutionize the industry by transforming sustainability and improving the health and well-being of New Yorkers," Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. 
Soos Technology CEO Yael Alter said, “With our Grow-NY prize money, we plan to create over twenty high-paying research and engineering jobs in the next two years, by building the NY Poultry Research Hub, which will connect academic research with poultry startups and corporates, to commercialize validated research. We are thrilled to put down roots in the Grow-NY region.”