How often do you hear or see government agencies lauded with innovation?
In 2014, Prof Lucky Nedambale, a livestock scientist at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), developed a state-of-the-art mobile laboratory called Gamete-Tek Cryo-mobile laboratory.
A first of its kind in Africa, it was developed to “assist emerging farmers access advance reproduction technologies” said Prof Nedambale.
The innovation was propelled by evidence recorded of rising infertility rates in livestock, as reported by farmers and researchers alike. Moreover, for Nedambale and team, the concern worryingly laid on smallholder livestock farmers.
“It is a challenge for smallholder livestock farmers in South Africa to access advance reproduction technologies in order to improve their livestock production. These farmers typically depend directly on agriculture for their livelihoods abetted by limited resources and skills.”
Such a decline in livestock production could spell a major impact on their nutrition, food security and income.
He was aware of the subject limitations and scepticism emerging/smallholder farmers could hold of the technology but there were signs it was the opposite.
“The livestock production efficiency in the emerging farming areas of South Africa was low as a result of low cow reproductive efficiency. This was caused by offspring rate, which was used to measure reproductive performance in communal and emerging farming areas of South Africa” Prof Nedambale added.
The state-of-the-art mobile laboratory vehicle is fitted with sophisticated reproductive technologies to service farmers livestock.
These technologies included artificial insemination (AI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryo transfer (ET), Nuclear transfer (Cloning), Sexing (Spermatozoa and Embryos), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), cryopreservation of gametes or embryos, and Ultrasound.
“The use of the Gamete-Tek mobile laboratory is vital for rapid field evaluations, providing the farmer with information about their males’ livestock immediately. Another benefit is that males’ animals can be evaluated for functional efficiency and structural correctness” he said.
Its such innovations that government and private sector needed to embrace loudly and invest in. Just this year alone, the FMD outbreak almost exposed our science and research institutions incapacity to introduce new technologies.
The benefits of using such a technology could create growth opportunities for AI industries including for farmers. One particular assistance the technology will serve the livestock industry is to reduce its reliance on beef imports.
The Gamete-Tek cryo-mobile laboratory, is well-positioned to offer quality scientific services on advance reproduction to the agricultural sector. Semen is collected and evaluated using Computer Aided Sperm Analysis (CASA).
“The CASA provides automatic sperm motility and velocity rates analyses, and captures images previously only unattainable using a microscope” he said.
Prof Nedambale authoritative body of knowledge and experience in animal reproduction was not only impressive but praised internationally. He obtained his Ph.D. in Animal Reproductive Technologies and MSc Animal Science from the University of Connecticut, USA.
Currently, Prof Nedambale is a Researcher Professor at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and Principal Researcher at ARC – leading the next generation of animal reproduction researchers and innovators.
ARC’s plans to roll these mobile laboratories to all corners of the country to “improve the genetics of the herd through the application of assisted reproductive technologies by bringing advanced reproduction science to farmers” added Prof Nedambale.