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April 22, 2014

Animal Breeding Steers Toward HPC

Tiffany Trader

A consortium of food industry animal researchers based in the Netherlands have invested more than €700,000 in a joint HPC resource that will enable members to perform calculations related to genetics. The Breed4Food consortium, an initiative of four animal breeding companies and the Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre of Wageningen UR, together with the Centre for Advanced Technology in the Agro and Food sector (CAT-AgroFood) will use the new supercomputer to analyze huge volumes of data to support breeding value estimations.

Established in September 2012, the Breed4Food program focuses on three main research areas:

I. Exploiting DNA information.
II. Enabling new breeding goal traits.
III. Creating added value in the food chain.

The transition into HPC reflects the new era of big data in the food science industry – a direct result of recent developments in DNA sequencing technology. As data volumes increase, so must the ability to perform complex calculations on that data. In this case, the additional computing power will enable researchers to make comprehensive analyses of breeding values and to select the best animals to cross for breeding.

The new supercomputer will benefit animal breeding companies and research groups working on breeding and animal genetics within Wageningen UR (University & Research centre), united under the Breed4Food consortium. Partner companies such as Hendrix Genetics, COBB Europe, CRV and TOPIGS will use the computer for their core activities and long-term research. Although animal breeding is the primary use case, the new system can also be used to facilitate plant breeding and other HPC-oriented domains.

Bernard de Geus, director of Breed4Food, sees the introduction of HPC as a positive step for food science: “Science and technology are developing at a tremendous rate. It is very important that both parties have a research facility close by. This enables them to consult with one another intensively and new scientific information obtained as a result of this can be translated quickly into innovation at the companies.”

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