Three Colorado State University professors were awarded the Colorado State University Research Foundation’s 2005 Technology Transfer Award for their development of a process to track livestock through scanning each animal’s unique retinal image.
The award, formerly called the Researcher of the Year Award, is presented annually to a top Colorado State researcher who has developed technology and had it successfully commercialized through patents and license agreements.
The 2005 award was presented to Bruce Golden, who was a full professor of animal genetics and breeding at Colorado State for 19 years and is currently an affiliate faculty member; Bernard Rollin, a University Distinguished Professor of philosophy and university bioethicist; and Ralph Switzer, a professor of finance in the College of Business and an adjunct professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. They received the prestigious honor at the Foundation’s 19th Technology Transfer Awards Banquet Thursday evening, on the seventh anniversary of the launch of their start-up company, Optibrand. Optibrand has patents in four countries, including the United States, and has applications pending in other nations.
These individuals have truly impressive academic records as well as equally impressive growing records in technology transfer and local economic development," said Kathleen Henry, president and CEO of the Colorado State University Research Foundation. "Their technology transfer and economic success is shown through the creation of a start-up company, which is based in Fort Collins and currently employs 17 people, half of whom have graduated from Colorado State University."
Optibrand’s founders developed a new method for tracking animals such as cattle, pigs and sheep by using a device known as the OptiReader – a combination handheld computer and digital video camera – to take an image of retinal vascular patterns, which are unique to each animal. The camera records the pattern and sends it to the handheld computer, from which data can be transmitted to an Internet-accessible database. The OptiReader provides a method of verifying the source, location and ownership of live animals and identifying those animals at the slaughter house.
Animals that contract diseases can easily be tracked because an individual animal’s Global Positioning Satellite information is automatically encrypted every time the animal’s eye is imaged. Their locations and animals they have come in contact with can quickly be determined.
In 2004, Optibrand signed a contract with Greeley-based Swift & Co., the nation’s third-largest beef supplier, to use its system in Greeley plants. The Optibrand system gives Swift the opportunity to trace boxed beef through the entire production process, from the feedlot to the shelf, by adding only about one-half cent to the cost of each pound of beef. Swift is in negotiations to add the Optibrand tracking system in more of its plants around the nation.
Golden, who serves as CEO of Optibrand, has more than 15 years of experience operating a genetic prediction enterprise as part of his interest in data management and animal identification in livestock. He directs all of the technical developments of Optibrand and built the software algorithms for converting the OptiReader images into barcodes. He also is the founder of a center that is the largest provider of genetic evaluations for beef breed organizations and beef breeding companies in North America. He has extensive international experience in livestock production including working in China, Brazil, Venezuela, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Golden received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science from Washington State University and earned his doctorate in animal breeding from Colorado State.
Rollin, an internationally known bioethicist, was a pioneer in reforming animal use in surgery teaching and laboratory exercises in veterinary colleges. He taught the world’s first courses on veterinary medical ethics and ethical issues in animal agriculture, both at Colorado State, where he has spent the bulk of his career. Rollin has given more than 900 lectures on animal ethics, genetic engineering, animal pain, veterinary ethics and other topics. He has worked with legislators, scientists and farmers to promote the welfare of animals such as alternatives to branding and animal testing. He is the author of more than 200 papers and 14 books, including "Animal Rights and Human Morality." Rollin earned his bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York and his doctorate from Columbia University.
Switzer is chief financial officer at Optibrand and serves as secretary of its Board of Managers. He has extensive experience starting and developing companies, having started three successful database companies prior to co-founding Optibrand. Switzer is a licensed attorney and CPA, holding membership in both the Colorado Bar Association and the Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants. He was the university mediation officer at Colorado State for five years, served as counsel to the U.S. Department of Justice and has extensive experience in financial, corporate and tax planning. Switzer’s research interests include federal taxation, international taxation, finance and real estate, veterinary jurisprudence, cyber law and intellectual property. He has written several books, including "The Research and Report Handbook." Switzer earned his bachelor’s degree in finance and his law degree from the University of Illinois.