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Plant and animal breeding for AbacusBio

Plant and animal breeding for AbacusBio

All plants and animals cultivated or farmed for agricultural purposes – e.g. pasture grasses, cassava, cattle, sheep, pigs, etc – are the result of many centuries, and millennia, of selective breeding with the aim of improving their usefulness for humans (mainly for food and fiber).

AbacusBio uses 1000minds to work with experts from around the world to identify desirable traits to be targeted when plants and animals are being bred for the agriculture industry.

These experts include breeders, farmers, agricultural advisors, scientists and, in some applications, consumers. Their preferences with respect to desirable traits of particular plants and animals are elicited and quantified using 1000minds.

20+ plant and animal breeds

20+ countries

20+ peer-reviewed publications

AbacusBio is an agribusiness consulting world leader. The following quote is how AbacusBio describes the huge and global agriculture industry it contributes to.

Agriculture is the art and science of sustaining human beings through the cultivation of plants and the rearing of livestock. As the global population rapidly rises towards 10 billion people, the ability to feed ourselves is becoming both a massive challenge and a huge opportunity for agribusinesses across the globe.

David Attenborough famously highlighted the finite scale and size of our beautiful blue planet. His point was, we cannot simply expand the planet further to make more room for growing crops and raising animals:

In the future, agribusinesses will need to work smarter and more efficiently to survive and thrive. They will need to engage with, and embrace, new science and new technologies.

1000minds is proud to be one such technology closely embraced by AbacusBio.

About AbacusBio

AbacusBio is an agribusiness consulting firm based in New Zealand and the UK and operating around the world.

AbacusBio consultants help experts such as plant and animal breeders, farmers and scientists to identify the most profitable and ‘best’ overall traits of particular plants and animals to be targeted for breeding purposes.

This trait identification process is known as defining a ‘breeding objective’, and is often led by breeding societies and industry and government organizations.

The challenge

A challenge: which traits are most desirable?

Defining a breeding objective in terms of identifying the most desirable traits for breeding can be challenging.

Inevitably, there are trade-offs between the traits under consideration. Also, quite naturally, the experts who are consulted tend to have different preferences from each other. For example, the preferences of agricultural advisors and scientists may be very different to farmers’ preferences.

Also, traditional methods for defining breeding objective – e.g. based on bio-economic models – have serious theoretical and practical weaknesses (overcome by using 1000minds).

For example, traditional methods often overlook the indirect value of traits that are hard to measure but that may significantly contribute to farm profitability.

Similarly, traits related to environmental impacts or animal welfare, which may influence farmers’ decisions despite being difficult to define economically, may be ignored.

AbacusBio wanted to overcome these weaknesses of traditional methods, and so they use 1000minds with their clients.

The solution

Which of these two (hypothetical) flocks of sheep do you prefer?
Value per lamb at meat processor
€2 more
Lambing difficulty per 100 ewes
10 fewer ewes have difficulty
Value per lamb at meat processor
€4 more
Lambing difficulty per 100 ewes
5 fewer ewes have difficulty
This one
This one
They are equal

AbacusBio uses 1000minds to survey breeding experts about the relative importance of target traits in the definition of breeding objectives for cultivated and farmed plants and animals.

AbacusBio’s consultants work in a variety of countries and across a wide range of plants and animals, including cassava, forage grasses, sugarcane, radiata pine, dairy cows, beef cows, sheep, goats, deer, pigs, fish and honeybees.

As well as its scientific validity and user-friendliness, a major strength of 1000minds is that the information generated about preferred traits is for each individual expert (instead of just for the group overall, as for other methods).

Such individual-level data enables similarities and differences between sub-groups of experts with respect to their preferred traits to be evaluated. For example, do breeders, farmers and scientists, etc have different trait-preferences?

The results

Results: superior breeding programs.

1000minds’ surveying tools, which take most people just 10-15 minutes to use, are user-friendly for participants, enabling trait-preference data to be relatively easily and cheaply collected.

According to Tim Byrne, Managing Director of AbacusBio International:

The power of 1000minds is that farmers can use it to reveal otherwise hidden factors that have a significant impact on profit and they can then focus selection more on these traits.

AbacusBio’s success has confirmed the power of the ‘preference-based’ PAPRIKA method at the heart of 1000minds, especially when traditional approaches to defining breeding objectives are not appropriate or practical.


The information about the desirable traits of particular plants and animals provided to farmers and breeders by AbacusBio from using 1000minds enables more profitable farming systems.

Also, the information collected can be used to underpin the design of farming systems that are more environmentally sustainable and better in terms of animal welfare.

This body of work is fully documented in the following peer-reviewed articles.


About the use of 1000minds to support plant and animal breeding.

Here are another 20+ peer-reviewed articles about plant and animal breeding.

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