In 2005 Alfonso Bolarín Guillén had a job interview at the same boar stud that Tania Lopes was selecting boars at, and as fate would have it, they met, and the rest is history. History being moving to Murcia, Spain together a few months later, starting a family, getting married, and finally, moving to Canada to join Fast Genetics’ team of reproduction experts.
As Alfonso would put it, “we always want to be out of our comfort zone, we want to keep learning and meeting new people.” This mindset made it an easy decision to leave the comfort of their life in Murcia and move their family across the ocean to Saskatchewan, Canada.
With such unique and interesting backgrounds, we asked Tania and Alfonso a few questions to get to know them better.
What is your role within Fast Genetics and what do you hope to accomplish?
Tania: My official title is Swine Reproduction Specialist. I am here to monitor and enhance the sex-sorted sperm program and to provide technical support to our production facilities, sales team, and external partners. My focus right now is on the improvement of fertility outputs that are needed for sex-sorted sperm to be used commercially. My challenge is to help with that improvement and to then introduce and teach the necessary techniques on customer farms so they can utilize the technology.
Alfonso: In comparison, my official title is Swine Reproduction Scientist. I am also here to help with the sex-sorted sperm program by leading R&D projects to refine and commercialize the program. I am directly involved in the full implementation of sex-sorted sperm in commercial pig production. There is a lot of successful research that has been done so far, but more is needed to reach the finish line and scale throughout the swine industry. My job is to help reach that finish line and then optimize the program thereafter.
What did you focus your Masters and PhD degrees on?
Alfonso: I validated the transrectal ultrasound for the swine industry many years ago. I then used that to understand deep uterine insemination with low-dose frozen semen. I found that the results of low dose frozen thawed semen insemination mostly depended on ovary status at the moment of insemination. I also learned that ovary status differs among seasons, explaining low conception rates for frozen-thawed semen in summer compared to other seasons.
Tania: I focused on ovarian development from parturition to ovulation, and seasonality. I also looked at some hormonal treatment strategies to control it.
How will you use those learnings at Fast Genetics?
Tania: There are few swine genetics companies in the world doing ovary scanning on sows to characterize ovulation and improve fertility, and Fast Genetics is one of them. The combination of practical pig production, farm management and science has always driven my career and education. Fast Genetics allows and encourages me to incorporate science into daily farm production, giving me the freedom to innovate and share ideas.
Alfonso: I have been involved in boar semen production since 1999, mainly focusing on applied sciences and how they impact business. For the last seventeen years, I have been involved in development of new workflows, disruptive boar semen quality concepts, detecting sub-fertility in boars, development of new biosecurity procedures in boar studs, and implementing project-driven work in private and public companies. I hope to use this experience and to leverage the strengths of Fast Genetics’ program to create new opportunities for our customers.
Maternal (left) and terminal (right) sexed litters from the sex-sorted sperm program.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, why Fast Genetics?
Alfonso: Fast Genetics trusts, values, and encourages me to continue learning and implement my knowledge in their system. This recognition encourages me to give the best of me to reach our objectives as soon as possible. I am also excited about future challenges that may come my way. Moving to another country, re-building a life in Canada with our children, shifting our family mother tongues, Spanish and Portuguese, to English, and also experiencing our first Canadian winter are all exciting for me! The most exciting part of Fast Genetics is the people we are meeting, the team, and the game-changing achievements we can create together.
Tania: There are few disruptive technologies that could globally impact a millennial industry such as the pork industry and change the way pigs are produced in only a few months. In fact, this has hardly happened in the history of agriculture. I feel that the worldwide implementation of sorted boar semen will be that disruptive technology, and I want to be part of the team that developed and implemented it.