DARPA seeks ‘top chef’ for 3D printed food
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants ideas for turning cellular biomass into safe, visually appealing, edible and palatable food that can support the military and civilians when traditional food is unavailable.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is inviting small-business innovators to submit ideas for turning cellular biomass created through its ReSource program into safe, visually appealing, edible and palatable food that can support the military and civilians when traditional food is unavailable.
DARPA’s ReSource program aims to engineer versatile, durable systems that use local feedstock and mixed waste to rapidly produce a wide range of on-demand products, ranging from potable water and “edible macronutrient” to lubricants, adhesives and tactical fibers to support expeditionary units and humanitarian relief operations.
Announced Nov. 23, the Innovative Nutritional Formulations program aims to turn edible biomass into palatable food rations at scale under austere conditions for disaster relief, as a backup food supply for submarines and aircraft carriers and to supplement vulnerable supply lines. Besides delivering sufficient calories, vitamins and nutrition for those in inaccessible locations, the program aims to reduce the military infrastructure’s carbon footprint, maximize on-site resources and develop ways to generate materials in the field.
The food will be evaluated for safety and its taste profile, though DARPA says the product should be assessed through chemical analysis, rather than by actually eating it. It must also meet nutritional needs of various populations and have a long shelf life, whether the biomass and final products are intended for a small population in a remote location or warfighters on a ship where it can be stored under controlled temperatures and humidity.
Proposers can develop the cellular biomass into liquid, powder, paste or edible ink -- so long as it is compatible “with 3D printing formats and other, low footprint, minimal logistical technologies,” DARPA said. Other considerations include sterilization or pasteurization requirements, the on-site sourcing of materials and compatibility with design of the overall system.
This two-year program features interim readiness tests of increasing difficulty, culminating in an ultimate challenge that will focus on “production of customized provisions from cellular biomass using performer-defined specifications while mimicking a remote, austere environment,” DARPA said.
Ultimately, DARPA wants a flexible platform users can adapt to create customized provisions based on individual needs at scale under a variety of conditions.
Submissions are due Feb. 3. Read the full notice here.
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