Two small businesses each won $100,000 for their food-tech and biotech innovations at the NSIN Presents: Starts Combat Feeding - Pitch Event.

Industria Imperium and Titan Bioworks will continue advancing food technologies for warfighters to improve combat resilience and readiness across diverse and remote environments. The companies will use their winnings from the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) Starts Combat Feeding Pitch Competition to develop new sources of early-stage food technology with the Combat Feeding Division (CFD) of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM).

The two ventures will innovate areas of technology for CFD, including:

  • food preservation;
  • stabilization and densification technologies; and
  • foods that support human performance or optimize gut and immune systems.

During the live pitch event, Craig Rettie, Director of Research and Technology Integration at DEVCOM, praised the caliber of finalists and the critical role of nutrition for warfighters.

“Our business is all about protecting and enabling soldiers; this is a team business. We can’t do it alone. We depend very heavily on industry, academia, other government agencies, labs like us, even internal to the Army — we have strong partnerships with Army R&D Labs… I’m very happy that we have a number of different organizations here today that are willing and desiring to help,” said Rettie.

Describing the role in sustaining warfighters, he noted, “There’s a role to be played in being able to keep joint warfighters nutritionally sustained, given the vast barriers that exist to doing so. It’s not just nutrition, but nutrition that will improve their health and performance. It all goes back to being able to operate in austere environments, disconnected from logistics or lines of communications, and highly distributed operations where decision-making has to be decentralized and the consequences can get really serious.”

The NSIN Starts Combat Feeding Pitch Competition helped CFD solve its need for new sources of early-stage technology to help sustain the American warfighter. Areas of technology interest included food preservation, stabilization and densification technologies, and identifying foods that support human performance or optimize gut and immune systems. The final six teams presented solutions to CFD for nutrient densification and fermented protein alternatives.

“All of our activities at NSIN are focused on tapping into communities of problem solvers who typically have been out of reach for the Department of Defense. This is based on a fundamental belief that we’re in a complex, rapidly advancing world and the rate of change and innovation within the DoD is not keeping pace with our adversaries,” said Abi DesJardins, Acceleration Portfolio Director & Director of Research at NSIN. “We believe that if we, the DoD, want to maintain resilience, leverage emerging tech, and solve problems differently, then we need to incorporate new problem solvers.”

Meet the Winners of the Combat Feeding Tech Pitch Competition

Industria Imperium | Fairbanks, Alaska

Industria Imperium improves warfighters’ lives by increasing the quantity and lifespan of nutrients in military rations. Its technology of essential amino acids and fatty acids, along with a balanced carbohydrate blend, is designed to boost the nutrient density and ferment protein alternatives. By optimizing essential amino acid delivery, the team will enhance the operational resilience and readiness of the military through improvements in muscle metabolism and reduced load carriage for warfighters.

Describing the winning solution, team members of Industria Imperium said, “The competitive Combat Feeding Initiative award will enable our company to leverage new technology in microencapsulation and eliminate the undesirable taste/texture of our proprietary essential amino acid formula. We will also dramatically improve[the] shelf life of our product to less than three years.”

“Our collaborative partnership with the University of Montana leverages decades of experience with USARIEM [ U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine] research priorities in the warfighter. In doing so, we know that [maintaining] musculoskeletal health is a crucial element of functional capacity and injury prevention in the operational environment.

“The status quo of essential amino delivery is reliant on outdated consumption of intact protein,” the team said. “Even with the highest quality protein, the current approach increases the weight and volume of the food kit for the warfighter. The status quo is also sub-standard solution to the muscle remodeling required to maintain operational effectiveness during high levels of physical, nutrient and/or environmental stress.”

Titan Bioworks | St. Louis, Missouri

NSIN Emerge Alum

Titan Bioworks enhances the performance of warfighters by maintaining nutrition over long periods and multiple missions. Its innovative protein technology sustains muscles and performance without increasing the volume or mass of food a warfighter must carry. The team aims to deliver a validated food prototype and purified protein powder and fibers in different recipes and formulations for warfighters to include in their diet.

Describing the winning solution and next steps for Titan Bioworks, team members said, “We are working on pioneering technology in the realm of manufacturing biomaterials from microbial fermentation. This field offers exciting possibilities throughout society but has many hurdles to overcome first. Our technology helps overcome some of those key challenges.

“We attribute our success to innovative and ambitious ideas based on deep knowledge of the field, to persistence and ingenuity in exploring those ideas in the lab, and to a well-rounded, team-based approach to building the technology and business,” the team said.

“We hope to provide a fermented protein food additive that improves the nutrition delivered to the warfighter while also improving the texture of the food. This should improve both physical performances as well as morale.”

Watch NSIN Presents: Starts Combat Feeding - Pitch Event

Key presentations:

  • 0:00 – 01:10 Welcome by Angela Austin, Program Manager, NSIN
  • 01:10 – 03:20 CFD Leadership Welcome by Dr. Erin Gaffney Stomberg
  • 03:20 - 21:12 Keynote: Mr. Craig Rettie, DEVCOM
  • 23:52– 33:50 Robert Coker, Industria Imperium*
  • 34:00 – 42:50 Bryan Tracy, Superbrewed Food
  • 42:50 – 53:05 Matthew Elonis & Theodore Elonis, Meepo
  • 53:05 – 1:10:30 Dr. Erin Gaffney Stomberg, CFD
  • 1:10:30 – 1:22:10 Cameron Sargent, Titan Bioworks*
  • 1:22:10 – 1:32:12 John Inniger, Midwest Muscle Nutrition
  • 1:32:12 – 1:42:10 Hortense Dodo, IngateyGen LLC
  • 1:42:20 – 1:44:55 Abi DesJardins, Acceleration Portfolio Director & Director of Research, NSIN
  • 1:44:55 – 1:45:35 Closing by Angela Austin, Program Manager, NSIN

*Winning team

The challenge focused on the DoD 3235.02E Directive on Combat Feeding and Research Engineering that establishes policy and assigns responsibility to combat feeding R&E in the DoD.

About CFD

The CFD provides the Department of Defense with cutting-edge research on emerging food technologies. It is a joint-service program responsible for research, development, testing, and integration and engineering for combat rations, food service equipment technology, and combat feeding systems. The CFD researches food processing and packaging technology to develop combat rations for all U.S. warfighters to optimize human performance through nutrition.

About NSIN

NSIN is a program of the U.S. Department of Defense that collaborates with major universities and the venture community to develop solutions that drive national security innovation. We operate three portfolios of programs and services: National Service, Collaboration, and Acceleration. Together, these portfolios form a pipeline of activities and solutions that accelerate the pace of defense innovation.