By Jeff Sisto, NSRDEC Public AffairsNovember 1, 2016
NATICK, Mass. -- The small country of Denmark is making big strides to spur innovation in food technologies that benefit the global marketplace -- and Army research is helping.
The Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, part of the U.S Army's Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, was invited to share its expertise in food technology research during a recent seminar hosted by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food in Boston Sept. 30.
The seminar, "Drivers of Food Innovation in the U.S. and Denmark," was part of a larger Danish Royal visit to the U.S. that connected government, industry and business leaders from both countries, with the goal of strengthening Danish research in food technology and innovation for worldwide applications.
A Danish delegation of more than 60 people attended, including the Danish Crown Princess, the Minister for Environment and Food, representatives from the Danish Embassy, the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, and leaders from companies within the Danish food and agricultural sector. Personnel from NSRDEC, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Boston-based technology companies attended for the U.S.
"The companies that are here today reflect cutting-edge technologies and state-of-the-art solutions and services to all kinds of challenges and opportunities in the industry," said Crown Princess Mary of Denmark during opening remarks.
"Sharing creates synergies and opens the door for new collaborations and in this case, collaborations across the Atlantic. Global consumers increasingly demand global solutions, and this requires global cooperation," she added.
Denmark's vision of enhancing food technology globally stems from its agricultural expertise, forged during centuries of successful farming that led to a vibrant, export-based economy and international recognition as Europe's number one country for food innovation.
"The Danish food and agricultural sector's commitment to producing safe food is widely recognized and has been achieved through cooperation between farmers, the food industry and authorities," said the Crown Princess. "The cornerstone of Danish agriculture and food innovation is to produce more with less."
Denmark's approach to efficiency aligned with the innovative research coming out of Natick and commercial technology companies in the region, making Boston an ideal location to initiate collaboration.
"I am immensely impressed by the many innovations and inventions from right here in Boston -- all of which, over the decades, have created new eating and drinking possibilities; not only for the U.S. military, but also for millions of civilians -- even in Europe and my home country of Denmark," said Esben Lunde Larsen, Danish Minister of Environment and Food, whose department is responsible for research in the areas of environmental protection, farming, fisheries and food production.
Larsen praised CFD's ability to identify and solve problems while continually improving its products.
"What fascinates me is the fact that Natick also works actively to increase the quality of the Army's food," said Larsen. "In my view, when it comes to food, our focus should not only be on what is technically possible. We also need to focus on making meals a healthy and joyous daily event -- for Soldiers as well as for the rest of us."
"CFD's continuous product improvement process hinges on Soldiers liking the rations they are consuming, or else they won't eat them, resulting in decreased health and performance on the battlefield," said Jeremy Whitsitt, CFD's deputy director and presenter for Natick. "We are committed to developing rations that are nutritionally optimized and that Soldiers want to eat."
Whitsitt's presentation highlighted current technology research areas such as food processing and preservation, performance nutrition, food safety, equipment and energy, and examples of technologies developed for military use that have influenced the commercial marketplace. CFD also provided a table-top display and ration samples of innovative food technologies such as cold weather rations and paratrooper bars.
The presentation was well received and follow-on discussions resulted in the identification of several potential areas for collaboration and bilateral synergy.
"I believe your research and experiments at Natick will continue to grow into many future benefits for the wider public," Larsen said.
Following the seminar, participants attended a reception at the Massachusetts State House with Gov. Charlie Baker and the Crown Prince and Princess.
The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.