DIY fertility testing goes digital with Taiwan's iSperm

Pig farm owner Sam Wang demonstrating how to use an iSperm kit in Yunlin, Taiwan.
Pig farm owner Sam Wang demonstrating how to use an iSperm kit in Yunlin, Taiwan. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Call home, check your email, count your sperm: Taiwanese start-up Aidmics is hoping to cash in on the US$40 billion (S$55 billion) global human fertility market with an iPad compatible gadget it calls iSperm.

Aidmics initially developed the product to help livestock farmers, but founder Agean Lin now plans to seek US Food and Drug Administration approval next year to expand its use to men.

"In the US, one out of every six couples has trouble conceiving," Lin, 35, told Reuters.

Investment advisory Harris Williams estimates the global fertility market to be worth as much as US$40 billion.

iSperm was released commercially last August and has sold nearly 200 sets to farms around the world. It isn't the first at-home sperm tester but the only one that offers instant fertility measurements combined with live visuals of the sperm.

Lin said he aims to price the iSperm device between US$100 and US$200, a fraction of the cost of the commercial version.

The technology is simple: a tiny microscope enlarges the contents of a few drops of semen inside a pipette, lit by a backlight. The light beams the moving image to the iPad camera, and algorithms then analyse the sample for total sperm count and motility, or how fast sperm can swim.

Sam Wang, manager of a livestock farm in central Taiwan, is a convert.

"Our pregnancy success rate increased by 20 per cent after we started using this gadget," said Wang, who uses the device to measure the fertility of his boars.

"In the past, we had to use huge, expensive microscopes and physically count each sperm one-by-one," he said.