Gentec: pivotal element in Michelle Miller’s career growth

“The punchline,” says Michelle Miller, Director of Global Portfolio Marketing for Genomics at Neogen, “is that if Graham Plastow and the folks at Gentec hadn’t created Delta Genomics, I wouldn’t have the career I have today.”

It all started at Gentec where Michelle had a technical role. As it became clear that Delta was in the works and that she would follow, Colin Coros, Delta’s first CEO, encouraged her to do a part-time MBA in the evenings. By the time Delta was spun out in 2014, Michelle was ready to take on the role of Director of Operations, in charge of running the labs instead of doing the lab tasks.

“I was happy to let the science part go in favour of management,” says Michelle. “There are only so many steps up in a technical role. The MBA opened the doors to keep the career ladder going upwards.”

Letting go of the science meant letting go of the processes, procedures and SOPs. Consistency was out. Figuring out what motivates each individual to be a productive employee was in. So was growing Delta to the point where Neogen might be interested. This took several approaches.

One was improving the awareness of genomics testing in the livestock sector, especially beef, then increasing adoption of tools. Still today, the biggest competitor for genomics are the “laggards” who don’t use genomics. Picking away at them took education, then putting together an ordering system that is easy to use so customers don’t get put off.

Delta had started with the beef breed associations. To grow, the commercial producers needed to be involved, again through education and good customer service. So this was another approach. However, that also meant a sub-approach of introducing operational efficiencies, running like a commercial lab and making sure the IT was in place to support the growth. All in all, the whole process was a significant interdisciplinary project over a couple of years. It resulted in doubling the number of samples processed.

“We needed valuable products to support the expansion,” says Michelle. “With John Basarab’s research at Gentec, we brought EnVigour HX™ to market. It’s a foundational tool for commercial beef producers, and includes a hybrid vigour score (longevity and fertility) which is how the producer makes money. It was one of the products that Neogen liked during the acquisition.”

In 2018, Delta’s board received a letter of intent from Neogen about buying Delta’s assets. Delta started the due diligence and putting together the asset deal. Again, Michelle’s MBA proved its worth. While a generalist degree, it provides enough spectrum so you know where to start. In January 2019, Michelle, 5 employees and Delta’s assets were transferred to Neogen.

“As GM, I was now responsible for a sales team, recruiting, finance, budgeting and overseeing the company,” she says. “Instead of worrying about cash flow I became more concerned about budgets, efficiencies, and communication across the network of Neogen genomics labs.”

In June 2023, Michelle became Director of Global Portfolio Marketing for Genomics. She’s still in Edmonton but responsible for the products sold in all 7 Neogen genomics labs, and has a team of product owners who help her manage the product lifecycle.

“Gentec is well funded, well connected to partners in the industry, which is key because you need to understand the issues so you can solve them through research,” says Michelle. “In fact, Neogen will want to be part of that continuum. I see it as a synergistic opportunity for Gentec to drive innovation and for us to make it real. As we did with EnVigourHX™.”


Enhancing Livestock Management: The Advantages of Multi-Spectral Cameras

This month’s At The Grill feature by William Torres (storyteller, empathetic connector and resonate catalyst) explores the advantages of using multi-spectral cameras to improve animal welfare and farm profitability.

Agriculture has been undergoing a technological revolution; and one area that has seen significant advancements is livestock management. Traditional methods of monitoring and caring for livestock are being complemented by cutting-edge technology, such as multi-spectral cameras. These specialized cameras are proving to be invaluable tools for farmers and ranchers, offering a wide range of benefits that improve animal welfare and farm profitability.

One of the most significant advantages of multi-spectral cameras in livestock management is their ability to detect early signs of illness or disease. These cameras can capture images beyond what the human eye can perceive, including infrared and thermal images. Changes in an animal’s body temperature or the presence of unusual patterns in their thermal image can indicate the onset of illness well before visible symptoms appear. This early detection allows farmers to take prompt action, isolating sick animals and providing them with appropriate treatment, reducing the risk of spreading disease within the herd.

Multi-spectral cameras also play a vital role in enhancing reproductive management on farms. They can accurately assess the reproductive health of individual animals by capturing thermal images that reveal the heat patterns associated with estrus or heat cycles. This information enables farmers to optimize breeding programs, ensuring that animals are bred at the right time, which increases the likelihood of successful pregnancies. It also helps reduce the need for hormone treatments, and enhances overall breeding efficiency.

Maintaining proper nutrition for livestock is essential for their health and productivity. Multi-spectral cameras can be used to assess the overall health and well-being of animals by analyzing the spectral reflectance of their skin or fur. These data provide insights into an animal’s nutritional status, and can help farmers adjust their feeding programs accordingly. By tailoring diets to meet the needs of individual animals, farmers can optimize growth rates, milk production, and meat quality while reducing feed wastage.

Livestock welfare is closely linked to the environment in which they live. Multi-spectral cameras can be used to monitor various environmental factors, including temperature, humidity, and air quality. These cameras can detect stressors such as extreme heat or cold, which can lead to reduced productivity or health problems in animals. By continuously monitoring environmental conditions, farmers can adjust their facilities or management practices to create a more comfortable and healthy environment for their livestock.

Multi-spectral cameras are integral to the concept of precision livestock farming (PLF). PLF involves using advanced technologies to manage livestock on an individual or group basis, rather than treating all animals the same. These cameras provide data that can be integrated with other technologies, such as sensors and automated feeding systems, to create a holistic approach to livestock management. With PLF, farmers can make data-driven decisions that optimize resources, reduce waste, and maximize the efficiency and profitability of their operations.

Efficiency gains from the use of multi-spectral cameras can lead to significant cost savings for farmers. With the ability to monitor large numbers of animals simultaneously and collect data around the clock, these cameras reduce the need for manual labour and constant oversight. This lowers labour costs and allows farmers to allocate their resources more effectively, focusing on critical tasks that require human intervention.

The ability of multi-spectral cameras to detect early signs of illness, improve reproductive management, enhance feeding and nutrition, monitor environmental conditions, and enable precision livestock farming all contribute to the overall health and productivity of livestock. Additionally, the efficiency gains and cost savings associated with these cameras make them a worthwhile investment for farmers and ranchers looking to optimize their operations. As technology continues to advance, the integration of multi-spectral cameras into livestock management practices is likely to become even more commonplace, benefiting both farmers and the animals under their care.