Incubated Worlds, a new poultry facility exploring genetic diversity

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Incubated Worlds is a new advanced poultry research and breeding facility in Ethiopia. The facility, which has been inaugurated on 26 April, is a unique combination of art and science that aims to improve nutrition and incomes in East Africa with disease-resistant, climate-resilient poultry.
Ethiopia has one of Africa’s largest livestock sector, and demand for meat and eggs is rising rapidly. With new research demonstrating that just one egg a day can prevent stunting and enhance the brain development of young children, the poultry facility is a great opportunity to improve nutrition in Ethiopia. Part of the work at Incubated Worlds will involve bringing in farmer associations to study more efficient breeding practices and to learn about the latest improvements in feeding and raising chickens to help them to develop and grow viable poultry businesses.
Work at the poultry facility will be closely connected to the Poultry Genomics programme of the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) – a strategic alliance of The University of Edinburgh (through The Roslin Institute), Scotland’s Rural College and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
Leveraging this facility, CTLGH will lead cutting edge research and development programmes to deliver genomics tools and associated resources for use to realise genetic gains for increased tropical poultry productivity and resilience. CTLGH scientists at The Roslin institute, led by Dr Mike McGrew, have established methods for cryopreservation for long term maintenance and utilization of poultry biodiversity in Ethiopia and in Africa in general.
Adding a new dimension to the project is Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen. His 20-year-long artitic odyssey has involved creating some 20 generations of chickens that combine traits from breeds from around the world. Vanmechelen’s artistic crossbreeding project has culminated in an exceptional bird he calls the Cosmopolitan Chicken, which livestock experts say is also a potential treasure trove of valuable genetic traits.
The art installation component includes photographs, videos and books that provide insights into the complex genetics of both Vanmechelen’s many generations of poultry and an indigenous Ethiopian village chicken.
The Incubated Worlds poultry facility is funded by The Roslin Institute, the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the MOUTH Foundation. It emerged from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded African Chicken Genetic Gains (ACGG) project, an Africa-wide initiative led by ILRI.