Last year, Behind the Breakthrough profiled Manan Shukla, an associate commercialization lead at Global Good who was born in a small village in India and raised and educated in the United States. Manan has traveled extensively in some of the most impoverished regions in the world, working with farmers to understand the problems they’re facing and what technologies could help. 

Behind the Breakthrough: Manan Shukla on AI Shield

Today, Manan shares an update about Global Good’s work on the Artificial Insemination Shield (AI Shield), challenges facing cattle and dairy farmers in the world’s poorest countries, and his hopes for the future. 

Why did Global Good prioritize developing artificial insemination technology for dairy and cattle farmers in the developing world?

Global Good focuses on problems in the world’s poorest countries that have potential for technological solutions. In 2014, our collaborator, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, identified that the growth of artificial insemination in low-income countries has been hampered by low conception rates. Since this problem fit squarely into Global Good’s mission – and because the ability to successfully breed cattle can have such a dramatic impact on farmers and families in the developing world – we started innovating technologies that could help address the problem.

What we came to realize was that the real issue was the ability for technicians to keep the semen cold. And in the artificial insemination world, there’s little room for error -  in many cases, 100% of sperm can die after one minute of exposure to the wrong temperatures. Even in a developed country like the United States, it’s estimated that handling issues, like the one I just described, account for a near 10 percent decrease in fertility. Of course, the problem is worse in the developing world—primarily because training is less rigorous—leading to devastating consequences for farmers and artificial insemination programs alike.

What we’ve developed in the AI Shield is a simple, proprietary cold chain solution that can reliably keep frozen bull semen at the proper temperature.

What’s next for AI Shield?

We’re really excited about Worthington Industries’ official launch of the AI Shield in Africa later this week at the African Dairy Conference in Kigali, Rwanda. At the conference, AI industry leaders will have the chance to learn about the technology and its benefits. Usually, the main buyers of AI equipment are governments who then provide them to AI technicians. It will be great to see the technology in the field in Africa impacting farmers’ lives.

We are also working with our newest licensing partner, the Cryogenics Business Group of Indian Oil Corporation, to make the technology available in South Asia for the first time. Later this year, Indian Oil, will be launching the product in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

We’re excited to see Worthington and Indian Oil expand their markets with our technology, and in so doing, make the AI Shield available worldwide.

What are your hopes for the future of this kind of technology?

Our goal with technologies like the AI Shield is to improve the conception rates of cattle in low-income countries. Ultimately, our hope is to improve the lives of smallholder farmers and their families, who depend on their livestock for nutrition and income. 

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