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New Ration Technologies


Virdea
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We can see some new ration technologies on the horizon just by looking at recent research requests from Natick and at RFPs issued by the Army on long term research.

 

1. Food Printers.  Military cooks are a part of the logistics tail that can be cleaned up.  First, in the last year, 1/2 of all cooking specialists failed specializations.  Next, and infantry brigade uses around 80 food service personnel in its tail requiring a daily lift (just for them, not the food they make) of nearly 8 tonnes of supplies.  Finally, changing food preparation requirements can take a food service staffer 6 months to a year to master.  Food printers would cut 70 of 80 cooking staff, produce uniform food that could not be messed up, could be reprogrammed in days to changing food needs, and would reduce wastage of food delivered by 50%.  

 

2. Nonlinear food delivery.  The concept of meals has been studied, and it is discovered that soldiers do not eat them unless forced by command.  Soldier prefer to graze, eating all through the day and only stopping for a single large meal occasionally.  Nonlinear food services uses IT to monitor soldier intake and nutrition.  Education teaches soldiers how to graze.  Grazing allows more bulk foods in teams which soldiers "buy" from the commissary system using ration points.

 

3. Interactive preference logistics.  Each soldier has favorite foods, and new software can track what they like and make sure it is available more often.  Soldiers can also plan rations by putting in their preferences for meals while overseas.  The system will be designed to meet the soldiers desired at least half the time, baring logistics issues, in which the soldier will be told why the meals they wanted are not available, reducing complaints.

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My prediction from the reading.

 

In the next ten years the military will begin to phase in high-wall, bulk food delivery systems.  To handle dietary restrictions for many troops the basic foodstuff will be a four product system.  1) Fortified Nutritional Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), 2) Spirulina (Arthrospira) Cyanobacteria, 3) Corn and potatoes starch, and 4) Complex vegetable base made from mung, whole quinoa (leaf and seed), kale, carrot, and flax.  the delivery requirements for each soldier in the field of the products is about 1.4kg/day per soldier with little packing mass.  While individual rations are quite bulky, a mass packed high wall technology could deliver food to a brigade relatively easily.  A single chinook lift would be enough to feed a Brigade for a day.  A single 5-ton truck would carry a day of brigade rations.  This means food lift for a brigade is reduced by a factor of 6.  That lift is nearly an entire unit of fire for brigade artillery.

 

The four basic products would arrive at the brigade in 5 kilo bricks.  In an emergency a soldier could eat a brick of this food without processing.  1) would taste like popcorn butter.  2) would easy like spinach.  #3 would taste like died potatoes.  #4 would taste like a V8 in solid form.  When properly prepared they could simulate nearly anything.  Except for complaint about "texture" the foods generally meet taste tests.

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http://www.soylent.me/

 

 

My prediction from the reading.

 

In the next ten years the military will begin to phase in high-wall, bulk food delivery systems.  To handle dietary restrictions for many troops the basic foodstuff will be a four product system.  1) Fortified Nutritional Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), 2) Spirulina (Arthrospira) Cyanobacteria, 3) Corn and potatoes starch, and 4) Complex vegetable base made from mung, whole quinoa (leaf and seed), kale, carrot, and flax.  the delivery requirements for each soldier in the field of the products is about 1.4kg/day per soldier with little packing mass.  While individual rations are quite bulky, a mass packed high wall technology could deliver food to a brigade relatively easily.  A single chinook lift would be enough to feed a Brigade for a day.  A single 5-ton truck would carry a day of brigade rations.  This means food lift for a brigade is reduced by a factor of 6.  That lift is nearly an entire unit of fire for brigade artillery.

 

The four basic products would arrive at the brigade in 5 kilo bricks.  In an emergency a soldier could eat a brick of this food without processing.  1) would taste like popcorn butter.  2) would easy like spinach.  #3 would taste like died potatoes.  #4 would taste like a V8 in solid form.  When properly prepared they could simulate nearly anything.  Except for complaint about "texture" the foods generally meet taste tests.

 

High-wall?

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High-wall?

fixed_wall_plastic_bulk_boxes.png

Big, light weight, plastic boxes with no interior divisions.  Less packaging, cheaper food.  Grapes and eggs are expensive to get to troops in fresh form because they require extensive packaging.  Fresh meat needs a reefer to move sides and a human butcher at each end.  

 

Flour is easy to travel - throw it in sacks or - if you are handling it rough - a high wall container like show above, suitably covered.  A highway container can carry 50kg, be carried by two soldiers like a litter using little carry hooks, be stacked 5 units high, rolled onto.  Truck beds can have wheels and a ramp allowing the boxes to be rolled on and off fast.  High wall loads do not shift in transit because they are tight packed - full to the top.  When you want to use what is in the high wall you open the top and dig in.  best of all - the bulk cost of a high wall is like $5.  You cannot carry ammo in it, but if you can make all your food stuff naturally shelf stable without packaging (think how you can sit a bowl of uncooked rice on your counter for three months and it will cook up find afterward) then it cuts lift costs a LOT.  Technically reusable, but some high walls are made from food products themselves (such as corn) and can be shredded, soaked in lye water, and used for tortillas.  

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My prediction from the reading.

 

In the next ten years the military will begin to phase in high-wall, bulk food delivery systems.  To handle dietary restrictions for many troops the basic foodstuff will be a four product system.  1) Fortified Nutritional Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), 2) Spirulina (Arthrospira) Cyanobacteria, 3) Corn and potatoes starch, and 4) Complex vegetable base made from mung, whole quinoa (leaf and seed), kale, carrot, and flax.  the delivery requirements for each soldier in the field of the products is about 1.4kg/day per soldier with little packing mass.  While individual rations are quite bulky, a mass packed high wall technology could deliver food to a brigade relatively easily.  A single chinook lift would be enough to feed a Brigade for a day.  A single 5-ton truck would carry a day of brigade rations.  This means food lift for a brigade is reduced by a factor of 6.  That lift is nearly an entire unit of fire for brigade artillery.

 

The four basic products would arrive at the brigade in 5 kilo bricks.  In an emergency a soldier could eat a brick of this food without processing.  1) would taste like popcorn butter.  2) would easy like spinach.  #3 would taste like died potatoes.  #4 would taste like a V8 in solid form.  When properly prepared they could simulate nearly anything.  Except for complaint about "texture" the foods generally meet taste tests.

 

That sounds really awful. 

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I disapprove of this "Golf bag" approach to modern rations.

 

I believe a general purpose ration is the ideal solution to those brave soldiers being out nourished by hilltop fighters using volley eating tactics with 7.62mm rations.

 

So the 7.62 is the equivalent of Kabuli Palaw, korma  and kebabs? Hell. Given the choice between that and what Virdea described, I'm wrapping a towel around my head and deserting like Bowe Bergdahl.

 

Damn it, now I want to go to an Afghan restaurant.

 

...

 

...

 

Yes, I know the Afghans don't wear towels on their heads.

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That sounds really awful. 

Compared to some examples of rations fed to U.S. soldiers?

 

Not really.  Probably would need to be made a bit more visually appealing.  You can find stuff like "Datrex" which while tasting fine and being nutritious, is not the most appealing thing to eat.

 

A great deal of the improvements to MRE's had to do with making the food in them more palatable. 

Early ones had horrors like "freeze dried beef patty" or "freeze dried pork patty", for example.

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I've always enjoyed the MREs that I've come across although, my experience is as a Mark 1 Civilian and even the terrible options are "fun" when you're eating them with friends or on the trail or whatever.

 

I think much of the importance of having home-cooked food for the soldiers in the field is more of a psychological and morale issue in addition to the health benefits form eating real grub.

 

In less than a month, I'll be heading up to Alaska again for the summer. Our first shipment of food is on a barge somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between here in Alaska. We generally go to Costco and Grocery Outlet or "Used Foods" as we call it to buy our food. There are different philosophies that each boat uses. Most fishing boat captains and their crews opt for the cans of chili, Dinty Moore stew and top ramen approach. We generally go for better quality of food particularly since it honestly doesn't cost that much more. Plus we take about a hundred pounds of frozen food (steaks, ground beef, cheese, etc) with us as carry-on luggage on our flight. When we're up there, we eat good. And that's because we work hard. And it is psychologically draining eating garbage after you've slaved for 12 or 18 or 24 hours in a row with nothing to eat but granola bars.

 

So, with that said, after about a month or so of eating your own cooking, and my wife and I are foodies and we know how to cook, I can tell you it sucks eating your own cooking. And it is so much of a treat just to sit down and have someone else serve you chow with the option of eating "fresh" salad and "fresh" dairy products from the cannery cook hall.

 

I imagine in an even more dreary and dangerous location like Iraq or Afghanistan, having the option of eating some fried chicken or real turkey and gravy or steak and potatoes would be an absolute luxury for the troops over there.

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I was in when we transitioned from MCI's to MRE's.. Neither were great, the MCI's were usually from the early to mid 1970's and had not aged well at all.

The MRE's were..

 

Well, a horrorshow. 

 

The early "ham and cheese omlette" for example was a rubbery mass in some kind of salty brine. Now, it tasted okay, but you were better off eating it in the dark. The eggs were a distinct shade of OD, with bits of pinkish ham, and yellowish "cheese" .

 

All in all it looked far too much like a piece of rubber dog vomit.

 

Also, god help you if you got any of that brine on you. It'd stink terribly after an hour or so.

 

So something that is a semi-palatable "brick" of what tastes and smells like V8 juice does not seem that bad to me.. (Especially if I could secure a source of vodka, and a jar of dill pickle spears...)

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Yeah. I've never eaten any of the old stuff. Any of the MREs that I had were from the mid-1990s on. My step-dad Rip has some interesting stories about commercial fishing on Kodiak Island in the 1970s and 1980s and much of the fare was old dehydrated World War 2 surplus. The only way they survived was that Rip's dad had crab pots that they'd drop (probably illegally) before going out for the fishing period. And when they came back to the cannery they'd trade fresh king crab with the Filipino cooks for frozen steaks and burgers.

 

My wife has been fishing with her family since she was 9 years old. One of the great traditions of Alaska is the public garbage dump which is an official swap meet and nature watching trip rolled all into one. The matrons of my wife's family were her grandmother and great-aunt who ran the fish camp with an iron fist. They were also inveterate "pickers" and would comb the garbage dump for anything. Old clothes. Old fishing equipment. Old food that the cannery wouldn't even feed their fishermen let alone actual cannery employees. Apparently the greatest find was cases and cases of dried "hollow spaghetti" which must have   been made sometime during the Korean War and was of sufficient quantity and quality to last the fish camp for a decade or more. My wife has a jar of it somewhere as a momento/warning.

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From where I stand, the OP's futurvision seems at once a bit too radical and a bit too tame.

 

For it being too radical, I will simply note all of the attempts to rationalise soldier's rations into energy bars, food cubes and the like. To which soldiers have universally responded by simply not eating their carefully-formulated glop. People like real food, with real flavours and textures. Their yearning only increases when said food is one of the only luxuries allowed to them and life is shit (see: war).

As for the technology itself, I don't see how printing things on site would be any better than simply shipping pre-made food cubes (or whatever) in before formulating and packaging them on site. You could still get all the advantages of personalised nutrition without having to ship over a printer and feedstock*.

 

For being too tame, I present my proposal for the Live Off the Land (LOL) digester/reactor: a containerised system designed to process meat/assorted protein (hopper A) or cellulose and complex carbohydrates (hopper B )  and convert them into feed steams for onboard bioreactors. The bioreactors, in turn, can be configured for a variety of cell types (yeast, bacterial, plant, animal and so on) and used to produce either cultured biomass or separated product. Products include:

  • amino acid-complete proteins/fatty acids/sugars of various complexities for on-site food production
  • raw biomass for food or storage
  • fuel
  • biomedical proteins, including recombinant vaccines
  • drugs
  • engineering materials, including fibroin, for use in on-site production of equipment and packaging
  • Nitrate and acid feedstock for the production of explosives

Just roll up, throw things (plant matter, items for recycling, animals, people, your old rations etc.) into the correct hoppers and you're good to go. Locals not up to scatch? Why not just LOL them and extract value directly?

 

Even better: the system interfaces seamlessly our existing tissue culture and printing facilities, allowing you to produce and deploy autonomous units in the field! Combine with our other state-of-the-art reprocessing and printing technologies (each sold separately) to produce armies on the fly!

 

 

* Yeesh... spirulina? Yeast? Why would we use this when modern agriculture already produces plenty of stuff that can be processed, packed and shipped as needed? 

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I don't care, I'm down with Dune taking over the topic.

 

Ah, but what is the worst Dune? Do we consider God Emperor to be the Nadir? Or did Herbert's kids and Kevin "I can't write a novel without including brains in jars on spider bodies" Anderson truly plumb the depths?

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I made it to God Emperor of Dune before calling it quits. If that is what was waiting for me later on, I'm glad. Honestly, all the sequels are so bad they retroactively make each previous book worse.

Granted I watched the 1984 movie first before the book which caused me to like it. But only the action parts and bits with Duncan Idaho and none of the weird drug trip space dimension crap.

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