Discovery and innovation: Foundations of industry advancement
- [Narrator] Christian Hansen has been improving food and health for more than 140 years and to this day we produce ingredients consumed daily by more than one billion people worldwide. We work continuously to develop the products of tomorrow, enabling farmers to produce the high quality, sustainable and safe food that global consumers demand. All this is accomplished from our strong platforms in bio-science technologies combined with extensive research and in close dialogue with our customers and business partners. This is why we call our approach science-based, research proven. - Our next speaker is Dr. Jason Ross. Dr. Ross is the Lloyd Anderson
endowed professor in physiology in the Department of Animal Science at Iowa state. In October of 2015, Dr. Ross became the director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center with responsibilities in research, administration and extension. Dr. Ross's research program focuses on both basic and applied research approaches to help enable livestock producers and associated industries improve swine production efficiency.
- All right, thank you, Stacie. Thank you for all you've done so far today to coordinate this. This is a big job that Stacie has done to bring everything together, particularly in this year coming out of a pandemic of COVID-19.
So I'm excited to talk about this topic on discovery and innovation and go back through some of the things, how the industry has changed, how our metrics have changed, our production efficiencies have changed and try to go back into some of those foundational discoveries that much of this success and advancement is predicated on and try to drill into why those were so impactful and what was unique about them and one of the things I think that will be, you'll see in this talk, that you've seen in every talk this morning is that we have to think differently. When you're thinking about the future, we have to think differently. Thinking about Proposition 12, thinking about responding to black swans, it requires you to think differently and the same thing happens if you want to be successful in making discoveries and innovating in an industry. So I'll start with the conclusion, just in case we're running a little short on time. I know the barbecue smells good and if people start leaving, you'll at least get the point if you don't hear me out.
So the pork industry is an exceptional story of progress and purpose. We feed millions and billions of people. The other thing that we should remember is we're standing on the shoulders of giants. When it comes to thinking about how we do bio-security, thinking about how we do diagnostics, how we feed animals, the reproduction that we manage in sows, this is all work. There's hundreds of thousands of papers and research experiments that have been done in the last two, 300 years that have shaped the way we do things now and some of those things there have been really pinnacle discoveries that have really altered direction.
So discovery and innovation. I hope by the end of this you'll see that that what they really are at the core is seeing things differently and that it's also intentional. Discovering something is not finding it.
Discovering something is when you are looking for it with the expectation of making a discovery. It's not like when you're looking for your keys and you've gotta dig through the couch and pull them out of the, behind the sofa. That's when you find something.
Discovery is when people are looking for something because they know there's something there of value. So, and I think the opportunities for innovations in the industry ahead are greater than what they are behind. So the agricultural success story, we have a continuously growing global population and estimates of even more substantial growth. American agriculture produces more human food than ever before and the pork industry is a staple in that enterprise.
We live in a tremendously food secure country that requires a very small relative proportion of our income to be invested into being food secure and that is also rapidly expanding into other countries where third world countries are now developing and consuming more product, more animal based protein. So in summary, we're doing more with less, and we consistently have in American agriculture. This is a good chart that shows from 1961 to 2017, the amount of protein that's provided per capita per day and you can't really capture it, but what's really happened since 1961 to 2017 is that we're providing 10 grams per person per day more animal based protein in 2017 than we were in 1961. That also accounts for approximately 150 million people increase in the population from about 180,000 or 180 million people to 330 million people walking in the U.S. today. So the good old days.
I was talking about this 40 years ago, pigs outside. I was thinking about this talk and thinking back how things used to be done and I asked my parents, I said, you guys got any pictures from, where I was started out in my life, where both my parents were raised by pork producers as well. So what you can see up here on the top left, that's my grandma, and what you can't really see probably is those little white spots in the backyard.
That's chickens running everywhere, the hogs route in open lots and on the top right you can see a guy standing behind a row of Angus eating out of the feed bunk, and that's my grandpa and then you see the hogs are running with the cows and any of the corn that gets through the cows, the chickens, or the hogs are going to get it. So not the most efficient process, but it worked. So then the bottom picture that's I think, I was looking at the dates, I think that's about 20 years later and you had a little more confinement. You had them on slopes and you had these feeders and the one thing about when I saw that picture, it took me back.
My parents quit farming when I was about six years old and it took me back. I could remember in the mornings waking up and hearing those feeders, the lids on those things and it's a memory that you can't get out of your head. I went and talked to Lance and I said, do you remember when you were a kid that noise? He said, oh, yes! It reminds me how hot it was in the summer because your windows were open and it's such a distinct sound and you can't, it's amazing how a picture will take you right back to a memory 40 years ago.
So a lot different than how we do things now and how we do things now has been very rewarding. If you look up here, what I'm gonna show you over the next few charts is from 1970 to 2020, and on the left-hand axis is the number of sows that we've had in the U.S. So 1970 through 1980, it bounced around a lot, between nine and seven million sows in inventory, but we were producing around seven pigs per litter, and over the next 40 to 50 years, our sow inventory has dropped to roughly six million and we're producing 11 pigs per litter. So as you continue to extrapolate that, well, how many animals are we harvesting? How many are we slaughtering? Well, when you plot that against the inventory, the sow herd inventory, the number of slaughtered goes from about 80 million up to 130 million in the last 50 years and that helps account for some of that increase in 10 grams of protein per person, as the human, or as the American population is growing. Then you can start looking at the slaughtered per sow per year. How are we becoming increasingly efficient and we went from around 10 hogs slaughtered per sow per year, up to around 20, and then the real piece is how much pork are we producing? How much product are we producing for human consumption and then from 1970, we went from about 1,500 pounds of pork per sow per year, up to 4,400.
So that's 198% increased efficiency. I would say that's a pretty remarkable change. Most people would say that's a pretty good investment. So to put that in perspective, I had also mentioned the EPA and emissions and automotive trends. That's another example of an industry, and I'll show you some data on that but the interesting thing that the industry has also done is reduced the carbon footprint by over 33%.
So the kilograms of carbon dioxide produced per kilogram of product marketed has dropped 33%. So automotive trends right over here on the left, you've got the real world CO2. So that's actually measured in grams per mile for our fleet and that's actually gone down. It's decreased 49% and the miles per gallon, that's a direct reflection of the miles per gallon and the efficiency has improved 96% over the last 45, 50 years as well. So pretty impressive, but not quite as impressive as animal agriculture and I think those are valid comparisons too because those are both industries that rely heavily on the utilization of natural resources for what they accomplish.
So what's the benefit of this improved productivity that we're experiencing? Well, if you used 1970 sow production metrics to produce the 28.3 billion pounds of pork that we produce now in 2020, that would require roughly 12.6 million more sows in the U.S. than what we have right now
and I was asking John Patience, well, how much money is that? John says, well, you use about 1.1 tons per sow per year. That's about 13.86 million more tons of feed. Roughly 300 or $3.5 billion
equating to $26 per market hog increased costs. So that's part of that efficiency that also creates and enables the sustainability of it, because it makes it profitable. So there's obviously been dramatic improvements in the finishing of productivity in the pork industry as well, So this is, Dr. Patience also provided me with this. You can see the average market weight has gone up. The number of days on feed has gone down and that's largely a result of the feed conversion, which is improved by 18% and the daily feed intake has also increased by 10%. So what are some of the contributing factors of herd productivity and I think everybody in here would have some ideas of what you thought was important and I asked a few people what they were, and so not all of these are my own ideas, but these are some of the things that I think have been influential, and all kinds of disciplines.
I can't explain the basis for all of them. I'm going to try in a minute to talk about a few of them, but even going back to 1936, the Rural Electrification Act. Getting electricity to rural areas in America was required to do a lot of the things that we've enabled with engineering and facility management that's happened in the last 50 to 60 years. There's Paylean in 1999, dramatically improved growth performance. No longer available. Lutalyse, other reproductive hormones, the reproductive management.
Most of those discoveries are predicated on basic science research that has enabled us to understand how sows work. How their estrous cycles work. Antibiotics.
A variety of really impressive genetic progress using BLUP, molecular genetics, whole genome sequencing, culminating in the sequencing of the entire swine genome and publishing that in 2014. So down here on the bottom, I've mentioned hog cholera eradication. That was some of the early vaccines developed for the swine industry right here at Iowa State in 1905, I think by the way, and then there's just been continuous improvement in bio-security as we understand pathogens and how diseases spread. So I'm going to try to get into a few of these and there's also a dramatic improvements in nutrition. I know there's nutritionists in here. So that made me nervous to talk about that too much and we also have John Patience and Laura Greiner talking in the afternoon session so I won't get into all of the ways that our nutritional formulations and synthetic amino acids have improved feed efficiency, making this one of the most, making them one of the more influential factors that have driven some of our efficiency.
So getting into that, thinking about discovery and innovation, discovery is this act of finding or learning something new for the first time. So I'm going to share some examples of where I thought some of the first times were that have now have become staples and influenced how we do things in the swine industry and then there's innovations and that's referring to something that's new or a change to an existing product or an idea or a field. There's the telephone and then there's the smartphone.
The telephone's the discovery and the smartphone's the innovation. So at its core, innovation requires new information, new knowledge, new situation. In other words, you have to think differently. Albert Einstein says you cannot solve your problems with the same thinking that you were using when you got into them. So, let's talk about a couple of these different ones, antibiotics, animal health in general and some of the veterinary management that's happened over the last 100 years. It's vaccines, diagnostics and bio-security.
So where did all our, where did these abilities come from that enabled vaccine? It was actually Edward Jenner in the 1700s noticed that people that were exposed to smallpox, or sorry, that had cowpox, which was not a deadly disease, that when they were later exposed to smallpox did not contract the disease, which was highly contagious and very deadly and so that was actually the, some of the early work in inoculation and understanding that your immune system could adapt when being exposed to a less harmful form of a pathogen. So then fast forward another 100 years or so, and we had the hog cholera eradication. Hog cholera, I didn't realize this until I was doing a little bit of reading and studying but accounted for more than 90% of the hog deaths from 1850 through 1950 and it wasn't eradicated until 1978, but a big part of that was shortly after Iowa State University started the Veterinary College and most people thought that that was based on bacteria, that it was transmitted by a bacteria, but it was discoveries here that found out that it was transmitted via a virus and were able to create a live virus hyper-immune vaccine that was critical in the eradication of the disease, and also a foundational knowledge for the development of future vaccines that now our system and our vaccine technologies continue to grow and accelerate, and we can create vaccines in relatively short notice. COVID-19, Moderna. So another huge piece of diagnostics is PCR and Brad Frecking was talking about PCR earlier. This guy's picture here is Kary Mullis.
Has anybody ever heard of Kerry Mullis before? 1984 proposed using the technology or the technique to amplify small pieces of DNA and he ended up getting the Nobel prize for it in the 90s, but it was really his pioneering work in the 1980s, where he discovered how to make a reaction that you could heat up DNA, cause the two strands to separate apart, and then when it kneeled back together using different enzymes, replicate them, and then through that series of reactions, multiple cycles of that reaction, you could replicate the DNA. So now when you get your PERS response results from the veterinary diagnostic lab, and it has a CT value, that's the called the cycle threshold and is referring to how many cycles it took to amplify. So the lower the number, the more copies of DNA that were started in that reaction and that's why with a lot of diseases we talk about it in the swine industry if the CT value's around 30, 31, 32, you think, well that's a negative. A COVID test that's around a 39 or a 40 is still considered a positive. So PCR, that's a huge one. Not only that, but it was dramatic in genetic improvement.
It's been a dramatic tool in understanding physiology medicine, and then ultimately developed into sequencing technologies as well. So this is a neat story here on disease transmission and I think this is one of the first things, I don't know if anybody's heard of Ignaz Semmelweis, raise your hand if you have. I don't want to bore if you've already heard this. This is a guy, he was a physician, an obstetrician in the 1800s in Vienna and he was a resident and he oversaw multiple hospitals where he was an obstetrician, delivered babies, and these were for low-income women. So women that were underprivileged that needed care could come to these places because this is where doctors in training would deliver the babies. So it was free care for them and their baby but you're working with new doctors.
So it's kind of like when you go to get your hair cut at the place where it's a little cheaper, you may not like how it looks when it comes out. Well, this guy in 1841 through 1846, started noticing that at these two clinics that he oversaw the death rate after birth was dramatically higher in one of them than the other. When I made this chart, I thought, oh, man, that looks just like some of these POP, these prolapse farms that I've looked at. These two farms that are right in the same area, they've got two different distinguishable rates in prolapse.
So what he discovered after one of his friends died by being nicked with a scalpel working with a cadaver that he thought there might be some issues with some disease transmission from cadavers. He had also noticed that at this clinic one developed a reputation that the women, that almost 10% of them would die and so women that would come to the hospital would not go in. They would deliver the baby in the streets and then go in so the baby could still get the care and he started to realize that the women, there were so many of them that were delivering babies in the streets, he realized that they had the similar death rate to the other clinic, not the clinic that they were coming into and delivering and so his observation was that in this place, the doctors were working with cadavers before they were coming over to deliver the babies and he started telling them they needed to wash their hands with a chlorine wash and the death rate dropped precipitously, and so Ignaz Semmelweis is considered the father of aseptic technique and he began writing letters to obstetricians and telling them you're killing people. If you are not washing your hands, you are killing women, and he ended up ultimately getting put into an insane asylum because nobody would believe him and he got beaten by the guards and died due to sepsis. So it wasn't until about 20 or 30 years later that Louis Pasteur's discovery and proposal of the germ theory of disease that he was vindicated and people understood where bacteria travels from and so we've continued to develop that.
Hygiene, and just think about where we go in the industry and how disease and bacteria and trailer washes, all of the antibiotics, and all of the discoveries that have now happened because of that, and so Louis Pasteur certainly has provided credit to Ignaz Semmelweis and his discoveries. Genetics, this is another one I think is just tremendous advancement and I saw some geneticists walking around here, so sorry if I don't portray this precisely how things went down, but there's been dramatic improvements in genetic approaches, genetic technologies, in the last 50 years. Beginning with BLUP or our best linear unbiased prediction, going into molecular genetics, whole genome sequencing, genome wide association studies, and then culminating in the sequencing of the swine genome. So a few examples of that really, Jay Lush at Iowa State.
If you've been in Animal Science Department, you've been to Lush Auditorium. Jay Lush was one of the first geneticists that started using mathematics and mathematic modeling in breeding selection programs, to improve the accuracy through which he could select animals for breeding and then it was later in the 60s where BLUP or best linear unbiased prediction was further developed, which is further expansion of the mathematical and statistical methods into selection and allowed for a lot of things. One of which was selecting for more than one trait at a time, and in 1989 then, there was folks that were also proposing marker assisted selection and integrating that with BLUP. So marker assisted selection is where you can identify specific features in the genome or in the genetics of the animal, which was not sequenced at the time. We didn't have sequencing technology.
PCR was just being developed. So there was some technologies that you could characterize and compare DNA between animals, but that was really a big one, and those are, some of those features, can be referred to a single nucleotide polymorphisms, which there were several discoveries here at Iowa State. The halothane genus is one. That's associated with carcass quality and PSC. Estrogen receptor one is one I'll talk about for a second and MCR four.
So estrogen receptor one was a polymorphism that was discovered by Max Rothschild and published in the 1990s and the thought behind it was, he had heard somebody talking about estrogen receptor and its interaction and its role in reproduction and he wanted to understand if estrogen receptor one had any relationship or was any different between Meishan pigs, which were having five or six more pigs per litter compared to large whites, and so he collected DNA, used the DNA and used a technique called a Southern blot but before you do this blot, you cut it with an enzyme and you get different patterns, you get different size fragments of DNA, if there's differences between animals and so what he was able to discover by looking at that was that there were two different genetic codes within the estrogen receptor one locus for Meishan's and that accounted for 2.3 pigs per sow, or pigs per litter difference and enlarged whites accounted for 0.8 pigs per litter difference. MCR four is another one, same approach, but identified with strong association with genetic, or sorry, growth and feed efficiency.
So the human genome was published in 2001. That was a huge deal, a huge deal. I remember when that paper came out, I was a graduate student. That was an important discovery because it was an entire map of a species' entire genome and you could go back and look at the sequence for every chromosome and start predicting genes throughout it. Then that expanded into whole genome sequencing and further refining genomic selection in livestock and then ultimately we were able to sequence the genomes of all the domestic animals and so this is a picture I just pulled from a paper that Dean Boyd had published also with John Patience and Max, or Matt Culbertson, and a few others and just showing that over the last 15, 20 years, the genetic improvement that's occurred by integrating some of these mathematical and selection strategies.
So that's on the axis here is the commercial pig genetic index. So reproduction is a big one. Talking about how do we get to this 11, 12 pigs per sow, per litter. Reproductive hormones change how we do everything. You walk into a sow farm, there's PG 600 there's matrix, there's Ivy gel, there's Lutalyse.
Some of the major discoveries were assisted reproductive technology. The way we were able to capitalize on that genetic value that the geneticists were developing and creating through technology was through assisted reproductive technologies. So with some of the hormones, that didn't start until the 1920s, when we discovered that there were ligands and receptors and how to collect those samples and measure that.
So estrogen, progesterone, some of the steroid hormones, it wasn't until then in the 1960s that people developed the radio immunoassay and how to measure them, but it was in the 50s and 60s, really that a lot of fundamental work happened to be able to understand how the estrous cycle worked in a sow and so Lloyd Anderson, who is a faculty member at Iowa State University for over 50 years, did different, very elegant physiology projects or research studies where they would take sows that were in certain stages of their reproductive cycle, go in and surgically remove just the uterus and leave the ovaries, or they would go in and surgically remove the ovaries and leave the uterus and look at the effects that that had on the estrous cycle and that's when they started to discover that there was a product in the uterus that causes the ovaries to lice their CLs and that's what restarts the estrous cycle every time. Well, then they discovered that that product that comes from the uterine endometrium is Lutalyse and in the late 70s, Lutalyse became a trademark and produced and has been used across all domestic animal species as a strategy and a management tool to regulate the estrous cycle and manage the reproduction of domestic livestock. So that's then followed. Altrenogest which is a progesterone. PG 600, that's FSH and LH.
Ovugels, gonadotropin-releasing hormone. So what you can kind of see in this picture, that's just showing all these pieces. The hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the ovaries, the uterus, how they're connected. Nobody knew this. Nobody knew this in 1930, 1940. People had to have the intellectual curiosity to wonder, well, how does this work and why does it work this way? Chris Pulge, this is an interesting, Chris Pulge was the person that pioneered cryopreservation of semen.
In 1949, he published a work producing the first, the first chicken raised or produced from cryopreserved semen and in one of the discoveries that happened as part of that, when he left the lab, he had his cryoprotectant, which he was working with was fructose at the time and is a semen extender and it was actually when he came back, some bottles that got switched around and he ended up using a bottle that wasn't what he thought it was and it ended up working exceptionally well and what was in the bottle was actually egg whites and glycerol and that's when they discovered the cryo protective effects of glycerol with semen freezing and that's been changed, semen cryopreservation. Since that everything has been built around Chris Pulge's work, and then through the 1960s, he worked with another faculty member at the University of Illinois, Phil Juck. They did all sorts of elegant embryo transfer studies to understand how the number of embryos in each uterine horn need to be defined for a pregnancy to be established and further understood the endocrine regulation of pregnancy establishment, but really what that allowed, the semen cryopreservation, the semen extender work, then enabled artificial insemination to rapidly accelerate genetic progress in the swine industry, and so that's where if you go back to the 1970s, not a lot of artificial insemination. 1980s, not a lot. 1990s, taking off. 2000, 2010, 100%.
Now we're getting into post cervical AI and deep intrauterine AI. So that you can continue to reduce sperm cells to maximize the genetic improvement from elite boars. So another thing that happened, I'll skip over and skip ahead to somatic cell nuclear transfer. That's AKA cloning. You guys have heard of Dolly the lamb, in 1996.
Dolly was the first mammal that was cloned from an adult cell, and interestingly, the guy that did this who is given the credit for this is Ian Willmott. Ian Willmott was a graduate student with Chris Pulge and I was a graduate student, and I had to do a report on Chris Pulge, and I thought, well, this guy's pretty famous, but maybe he'll respond to my email if I'm asking them about what Chris Pulge was like to work for and one of the things he emailed me back almost immediately and said, Chris Pulge was one of the best advisors I ever had. He said, one of the things that was unique about him is he would let you try anything in the lab. You had no restrictions. If you had an idea, you got to pursue it, and I think that's one of those things is that that's a pretty successful lineage there between Chris Pulge and Ian Willmott.
A few others on this, in this timeline of dramatic breakthroughs would be Ralph Brinster and Mario Capechi. Never did anything with pigs, but they did a lot of work with mice. Ralph Brinster was the first person to make a transgenic mouse using pro-nuclear injection. Injecting DNA into the nucleus of a mouse embryo and making it transgenic. Mario Capechi has a crazy story.
When he was four years old, he was growing up in Italy during World War II and his mom was arrested. She took all of her money. I think she was arrested for what's called pamphleteering. For spreading information about the government and was arrested.
She took her four and a half year old son sent him to friends with enough money to raise him for a year. When they ran out of money, they dumped him in the streets of Italy and he ran around like a feral kid for three to four years and his mom eventually got out of prison, went and found him in a hospital on his death bed. He hadn't had a shower or a bath in over six years and she got him back to health. They actually had family in Pennsylvania. His mother was originally from the United States. They sent money, brought him back to Pennsylvania, educated him and guided him into a university and he went on to win the Nobel prize for understanding how to make targeted genetic modifications in the genome long before the genome was sequenced.
Well that predicated a lot of work. Those two guys did a lot of work that's really accelerated genetic modification and genetic engineering in pigs going back to 1985 where the first pig created via pro-nuclear injection was made, all the way through 2008, where you had targeted genetic modifications to create biomedical models, using some of the same technologies that Ralph Brinster and Mario Capechi had designed or developed years earlier. So, and that's some of the outputs of that. This is a Seminole paper right here. Why is that important? Well, Randy Prather at the University of Missouri in his lab used those technologies and that information and once the genome was published and they understood which genes and which part of the swine genome regulated the entry of the PERS virus into macrophages were able to make a small genetic modification to it that prevented the PERS virus from entering that cell and created a line of pigs for which PIC has the intellectual property to now that is PERS resistance.
They do not replicate the virus and they don't get sick. So this is kind of a picture. Just captures a lot of what I was just talking about. Assisted reproductive technologies, breeding, genetic modification, genomics, all of these disciplines, these research areas, that when people start looking at things differently and seeing things differently than someone else, and then applying them together are able to create an innovation or make a discovery that did not exist before and in many times advances the industry substantially. So what are some of the scientific components of that? What are the fundamentals of exploration? So we talk a lot about basic research and applied research.
What are some of the driving forces? A lot of people it's like, well, what's the difference and I talked to friends in the industry too. It's like, well, it doesn't matter if it's not applied. It doesn't matter, if you can't do something with it, it doesn't matter.
Well, so what I'll show you is that these two, I think what I'll show you is that these two are codependent upon each other. That the strategies that you explore scientifically are different and critical. So how are they different with respect to driving forces? Basic scientists typically are driven by intellectual curiosity, whereas applied research is problem solving driven.
The questions that you're asking, basic science, is it true? How does this work? With applied research, it's what's the impact? So what are the objectives? In basic research you're trying to improve your biological understanding. So many of those things that I've described to you in the last 50 to 100 years are improving our biological understanding of how things work but the applied component that comes out of that is solutions and opportunity capture. Sometimes we're looking for solutions to problems, but innovative people are looking for opportunities to capture.
So the outcomes are new knowledge with basic science and with applied science or new practices and strategies. In other words, discovery and innovation and so this is an image I created quite a few years ago. I was actually putting it into an Iowa Pork Producers Association grant, and really was trying to show that our groups at Iowa State that were applying for the funding have both a basic and applied approach to science and understanding reproduction and heat stress at the time and so what I'm trying to demonstrate here is that this new knowledge that's created a basic scientific discovery is critical for applied science, applied science implementation that ultimately affects industry practices and new standards. So what's an example? Biological understanding, intellectual curiosity.
We'll do a quick case study here. This is a mentor of mine, Lloyd Anderson. I did a undergraduate research project with him in 1999. It wasn't related to this. The project was feeding a matrix, or sorry, RU 486, which is the morning after pill back before it was the morning after pill, to sows to see if we can induce parturition, which you can, by the way, and so that was a pretty cool experience for a junior undergraduate student, but some of the other work that Dr. Anderson had done years before that, decades before that, was trying to understand what makes an animal grow.
So he was a biologist and a neuroendocrinologist that really wanted to understand the hypothalamus pituitary growth axis. So on the left of the screen up there is a chart that probably took 50 people's careers to figure out. All the science and the projects that they did, and really what his component of this, one of the things that he pioneered here at Iowa state was creating a stereotaxic device that he could go in and surgically sever the relationship between what's known as the hypothalamus and the anterior pituitary and what he discovered is that when you cut that tissue, the hypothalamus can no longer effectively communicate with the pituitary gland and the animals don't grow as well and that's because the releasing hormones in the pituitary or in the hypothalamus drive growth hormone release from the pituitary gland that actually then ultimately drives growth in tissues. So, well, why is that important? Well, as we continue to understand the physiology of this, well, how is it regulated? Well, there's these receptors called somatostatin receptors, and those are kind of the brake system that the animal puts on to slow growth down. So after growth hormone is released, there's somatostatin receptors in all sorts of different tissues that it can bind to, to have a biological effect when it binds to somatostatins in the hypothalamus it reduces the releasing hormone and so what we decided in our lab was to, can we regulate somatostatin receptors by genetic modification and have an influence on growth performance, and so a student here in the lab, as well as other other team members in the lab pulled together, we made, using CRISPR technologies, using our information from the swine genome being sequenced, made a small modification in the SSTR two receptor created pigs through somatic cell nuclear transfer.
Thanks, Ian Willmott, and a couple of years ago, Blithe was able to get to founding pigs and those are what the pigs look like on 21 days when we weaned them and what we found is that when we grew out the first litters, we didn't see an effect on the females, but the males that had a one base pair deletion or in the heterozygous form that we thought were reduced from two functional copies to one functional copy had about a 10 to 15% or close to a 20% increased weaning weight, and a 10 to 15% increased weight all the way through day 49 of growth. So that's an example. There's opportunities to capture. There's risks to mitigate.
There's problems to solve, but they're all gonna come from seeing something differently than how someone else saw it before you and that's a key component. Seeing something differently than how everyone else sees it. So that's what I think is important. That's why you gotta have people and you gotta have the very best people that look at things. They understand the way things are or the way things are perceived, but they look at it and challenge it to see why it should be different or could be different. The other thing I think you have to have is unfettered action.
If you think about all these examples are people pursuing innovations, with unfettered actions, and I remember going to my advisor, Randy Prather, and I had an idea and he said, well, I'm not going to tell you no, because I've been wrong before. He's like I have my doubts, but I'm never going to tell a student no, because I've been wrong before, and I think that's the kind of unfettered action that people need to have when pursuing and trying to understand and innovate and discover things. I think you also have to accept failure as progress when you're learning from it.
Fail fast, fail forward. That's progress. That's innovators. Innovators fail often and then they have success.
Develop critical partnerships, intellectually and financially. It's not inexpensive to make discoveries, especially science, basic science, where many of those things that you pursue and many of the ideas that you try to understand, don't pan out. That's also true for innovations, and changes in the industry.
There's going to be some things that don't pay off. The other thing I think is really critical is challenging dogma. So dogma is a principle or a set of principles that we look at as authority or incontrovertibly true and it shapes the way you think.
It shapes the way you think as an innovator. It shapes the way you think as a scientist, as someone that's capable of making discoveries, because if you accept dogma, you can't think differently. You can't challenge the way things are and you can't understand how things can be improved. So a couple more quick things on the diffusion of innovation.
Some of these things. Cryopreservation in 1949. Artificial insemination, people were doing that a long time ago. It didn't really take hold until 20, 30 years after it was feasible.
There's a diffusion of innovation theory. Not all of us are innovators. I'm not even sure I'm one. When you start reading about some of these people that have made some of these discoveries, it's remarkable. Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs is an innovator. Pixar Technologies, the iPhone, personal computing. Where would this world be without somebody like Steve Jobs? It would not be the same had he not walked on this earth.
That's an innovator. There's very few. But then there's people that are ready to adopt. They're ready to implement that innovation. There's early adopters.
There's early majority. There's late majority and then there's laggards and non adopters and that those percentages represent their distribution and what I would say is that there's a social hierarchy in that distribution too. There's more early adopters and early majority and late majority in the social networks. Innovators are, if you've read Steve Jobs' biography, he didn't fit in real well socially with what you would call the rest of society and not necessarily the laggards and non adopters either. So there are strategies for accelerating innovation, and that's identifying who the early adopters are.
When there's a critical technology, a critical innovation, identifying who early adopters are and early majority people are because they're the ones that have to start to think differently and recognize the value of the innovation and the rest of the curve will begin to follow that. So going back to where we started, what's possible? So I plotted this. I plotted this chart out and I just used the curves and said okay, well, let's add another 30 years on and we could potentially reduce the sow herd to four and a half million and actually have 13, a little over 13, 13 and a half pigs per sow, or sorry, pigs per litter, weaned. All right, well, that's pretty remarkable.
So, I mean, you think, well, that's about what the trend line looks like. Maybe it's going to take us that long, but I've also been on farms where there's sows that can do that right now every day. Parity over parity can do that every day. So identifying what those barriers are, trying to identify where those differences are, how we can circumvent them, how we can get around those barriers and innovate to capture that opportunity, I think is critical. So this is an article I found when I was digging through things.
See if anybody can guess the date, the date wasn't on the article, but it was a story about my dad and there was two sows that he had that produced 38 pigs between the two of them on their first litter. So then I was reading a few other things around it. He was batch farrowing 20 at a time, but he was striving for 2.3 litters per sow per year.
He was looking to wean, his target was nine, nine and a half pigs per sow per year, or sorry, pigs per litter. The industry average at the time was seven. He had a TEGE break.
So that was another clue about when this was happening and then he was also had recently gone to the International Boar Semen Workshop in El Dora to learn how to do artificial insemination. So this is what I would consider, so I'm trying to find the date, when we have, is this in the 80s, because there wasn't a lot of people doing AI. Well, if you read down at the bottom, my brother was three and I was one. So that made this somewhere between October of 1978 and February of 1979. So pretty cool story.
Even in the 1970s, when there are sows that are producing six, seven pigs per litter, they were capable of way outperforming and actually performing at today's standards. So it is possible. The future's bright. There's opportunities abound, but it's capturing them and it's thinking differently on how we can capture them. So what are the things that are in play and what are technologies that are next? We don't have to get into the details and in the weeds on this, but they've all been discussed at some level today.
I thought I was thinking outside the box, but they've all been discussed at some level. Robotics, processing plants, blockchain technology, genetic acceleration technologies, animal activists, big data, carbon neutrality, automated cars, electric vehicles, sustainability, housing changes, local foods, cultured meat, precision animal science. These are all pieces that we have to think about and start thinking about particularly those things that we are not using right now in the industry, the innovations that are outside of the industry that can be captured and integrated into what we do. Just like when Steve Jobs started recognizing the discoveries and semi-conductors and understanding how that could revolutionize and create a personal computer. So speaking of Steve Jobs, one of the things that he said, and I think we talk about consumers a lot, and I know this is hard for a food producing industry, but Steve Jobs' opinion was you can't just ask consumers what they want and then try to give it to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something else.
Well, how true is that? And so Steve Jobs was so innovative he was creating value that his customers didn't know they needed until they had it. So a model through the future, we need to continue to strengthen our efforts in growing basic science discovery. The resources for that in American universities are way less than they were in the last 100 years.
That's a depleting resource because the money, the value capture is typically in the applied science realm, and so we do a lot of good work and there's tremendous partnerships between not only Iowa State, but many universities and industry partners, many in this room, we collaborate with, do research with, and it's valuable, but we've got to continue to find those ways to expand on co-discovery and facilitate and execute on basic science discovery, and then work on these longterm development of future influencers and identify strategies to accelerate adoption of innovative and disruptive technologies. So that's all I have for today. I hope it was somewhat interesting and a little bit of a background. I know there's meat from the barbecue ready to go. AB Vista, TechMix, Lynch, thank you for providing the lunch. Thank you all for being here.
It's greatly appreciated. (audience applause) (elegant music)