The Purdue University-affiliated project began as part of a humanitarian effort to improve nutrition in low-income countries. The startup was co-founded by Torbert Rocheford, the Patterson Endowed Chair in Translational Genomics for Crop Improvement in the Purdue College of Agriculture’s Department of Agronomy, and his son, Evan, to commercialize Orange Corn in the U.S.
“These funds are helping us develop improved varieties of Orange Corn that will be able to deliver better nutrition on a population-wide scale,” said Evan Rocheford, NutraMaize CEO.
Torbert Rocheford began working on naturally increasing the amount of health benefiting carotenoids in corn over 20 years ago to help address vitamin A deficiencies in Sub-Saharan Africa. He later realized his unique variety could benefit Americans as well.
“Most Americans are at an increased risk of losing their vision as they age because they don’t get enough carotenoids,” said Torbert Rocheford. “There is a very real nutritional need here in the U.S. that Orange Corn can help address.”
Currently, NutraMaize is bringing Orange Corn to consumers through its retail brand “Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn” that sells premium-milled products like grits. Long-term, NutraMaize plans to work with food processors to produce widely consumed staples like breakfast cereals and snack foods. Further, NutraMaize is working with the livestock industry to improve the nutritional quality of animal feed and resulting animal products like eggs, which is the focus of their USDA-funded work.
“Corn is the largest staple crop in the U.S. and an essential building block of our food system. That means if we make corn better, we fundamentally improve the American diet,” Evan Rocheford said.