KC capital implants cattle tech startup with fuel to scale, expanding IVF labs, headcount

LThe Vytelle CEO has seen a remarkable transformation since Kerryann Kocher grew up on her family’s sixth-generation farm in northeast Iowa.

Instead of just picking the cow that looks the best and getting the neighbor’s bull to breed like she remembers, Kocher and Vytelle — a Kansas City-based precision cattle company — help producers advance genetic advances through data collection and in vitro fertilization.

“We want to push genetics to be more productive, more sustainable and more profitable to produce exactly what consumers want from a meat and dairy perspective,” she said.

Vytelle cattle technology was launched in 2020, announced a $13.2 million funding round in September 2021 and is currently partnering with cattle producers in 21 countries.

click here to learn more about the funding of Vytelle in 2021.

Vytelle beef lots; Photo courtesy of Vytelle

Kansas City and beyond

The company’s 2021 funding round has enabled Vytelle to scale operations, Kocher said. Since then, the startup has added four new IVF labs. Three of these are located in the US – Texas, Gainesville, Florida, and Albany, New York. The other is in New Zealand.

“It’s our first corporate lab outside of the US,” she added. “And we started production this week.”

The oversubscribed $13.2 million funding round was co-led by Overland Park-based Ag-Tech venture-based Fulcrum Global Capital and private equity firm Open Prairie through the Open Prairie Rural Opportunities Fund. The funding also included participation from Kansas City’s KCRise Fund II and innovation in motionIllinois-based Serra Ventures, and existing UK-based investor Wheatsheaf Group.

Report on venture capital backed companies in Kansas City

It’s a big deal for the startup that a significant portion of the funding comes from local investors, Kocher said.

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“We’re really proud to be based in Kansas City,” she continued. “We wanted some hometown support. And here in the Kansas City area, where we sit with almost 300 animal health companies in the area, we feel that support and appreciate the existing ecosystem.”

Vytelle is listed in Startland News’ 2022 Kansas City Venture Capital-Backed Companies Report. click here to read the full report.

According to Kocher, Vytelle plans to open several additional labs before the end of this year, and they will also focus on optimization to support their growth in the coming year.

“We remain on a strong growth trajectory and I see no change,” she added.

click here to read more from venture experts on the impact of coastal investors on Kansas City capital.

Vytelle beef lots; Photo courtesy of Vytelle

access via tech

Kocher, who attended agricultural college, joined Vytelle in 2020 after spending 15 years in the animal health industry.

“(I) have devoted my entire career to raising cattle and serving farmers, ranchers and producers in some way,” she said.

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One way Vytelle does this: collecting data through its SENSE platform.

“The only way to identify the most genetically elite animals is to measure what we call their phenotype — all the things they do throughout the day and compare them to others — so we have the most elite, feed-efficient genetics ,” she explained. “When we think of feed-efficient genetics, it’s the rate at which we can produce two pounds of meat per feed. Feed is the biggest cost in producing an animal, and so we want to reduce that and at the same time produce more meat.”

Vytelle’s SENSE technology monitors how much a cow or bull eats throughout the day and how much they weigh.

“So we can measure their growth and compare it to others to identify the elites,” she added.

Once elite cattle are identified, Kocher says they can use IVF to help producers reproduce elite calves faster.

“For example – a bull and a cow – they make a calf a year,” she continued. “What we can do is take an elite male and an elite female and collect their eggs, bring them back to our lab, fertilize those eggs and produce a lot of embryos that we can put back into surrogate cows that ‘t of so much genetic value. This really allows us to reproduce the right genetic factor.”

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This is not only helpful for the producer, but also important for the consumer.

“We want to continue producing in a more sustainable way so that we can provide affordable meat and milk to everyone who participates in the world,” she added.

According to Kocher, what sets Vytelle apart is its accessibility. The company lowers the barrier to entry for manufacturers looking to gain access to technology. Eliminating hormones used during the IVF process is one way to make technology more accessible.

“We can do a harvesting process without the use of hormones,” she said, “which means it’s less work; there is less interaction with the animals; it’s better for the animals. And that allows more people to try this technology.”

Vytelle also uses outcome-based pricing, she noted. Typically, manufacturers in the industry are billed for each step of the process, regardless of whether the IVF is successful.

“We produce embryos and charge per embryo,” she explained. “So if we don’t produce any, we don’t make any money. So we really share the risk of that.”

This story is possible thanks to the support of Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundationa private, nonpartisan foundation that works with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create unusual solutions and empower people to create their futures and thrive.

For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn

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