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Darpa Project: Microbial Foods for Military

The research partnership comprised of Meridian Biotech and Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab (APL) were selected for the DARPA Cornucopia Program. Meridian has been awarded a $2.8 million research grant for its scientific and engineering contribution to produce microbial- based food using only air, water, and electricity. The technology will be developed to support forward-operating military units and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. Although the program use cases are specific for military and humanitarian assistance scenarios, along with space travel, the broader implications of this technology development has the potential to revolutionize the modern food system.

The Cornucopia program is a 4-year research project that seeks to significantly reduce the logistical burden of food transportation. Military deployments around the world come with lengthy, costly, and complex logistics, including tons of food to sustain troops over several weeks and months. This displaces cargo space that otherwise could be used to transport supplies, water, and other necessities to people in a disaster zone and may not meet the nutritional needs of civilian populations.

Cornucopia will demonstrate the capacity to produce all 4 human dietary macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat, and dietary fiber) in ratios that target Military Dietary Reference Intake (MDRI) daily requirements for complete nutrition. Among the food formats are shakes, bars, gels, and jerky that meet military nutritional standards.

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