Published On: 03/29/2023Categories: Agbiosciences, Entrepreneurs, Industry News

NutraMaize Gets $650K USDA Grant to Scale Research on Orange Corn

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Grant will prepare NutraMaize Orange Corn rich in antioxidant carotenoids for use in commercial poultry feed

NutraMaize, an agriculture company whose nutritionally enhanced orange corn is currently marketed through a line of premium milled products under the brand Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn, has received a two-year, $650,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to demonstrate the health and pigmentation benefits of feeding orange corn to poultry on a commercial scale.

NutraMaize CEO Evan Rocheford said a previous Phase I SBIR grant from the USDA funded proof-of-concept studies that showed NutraMaize Orange Corn improves outcomes in poultry health and egg yolk pigmentation. The results were published in the May 2021 issue and July 2021 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Poultry Science.

“Our previous research shows that when used in poultry feed, NutraMaize Orange Corn has the potential to improve animal welfare, consumer well-being and producer profitability,” Rocheford said. “We’ve shown that it can reduce the incidence and severity of footpad dermatitis, a common health problem for poultry, and significantly enhance the depth of color and health-benefiting antioxidant carotenoid content in egg yolks.”

The goal of the Phase II project, titled “Nutritionally Enhanced Orange Corn: A Natural Domestic Source of Antioxidant Carotenoids for Improved Poultry and Consumer Well-Being,” is to demonstrate that the corn can deliver the health benefits of carotenoids to poultry and consumers on a commercial scale. Carotenoids are natural antioxidant pigments that give many fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, their orange color and health-benefiting reputations.

“In addition to improving poultry health, the carotenoids found in NutraMaize Orange Corn have a number of well-documented health benefits for humans, such as significantly reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans,” Rocheford said. “This means that orange corn has the potential to improve animal welfare and reduce disease-related losses for producers while simultaneously improving consumer well-being by enhancing the nutritional quality of one of America’s most important protein sources – eggs.”

Rocheford said the project has three primary objectives that aim to demonstrate NutraMaize Orange Corn can provide value to the poultry industry at scale:

  1. That it can produce a number of economically relevant health benefits for both broilers and egg layers throughout their production cycles.
  2. That it can enhance the nutritional, visual and functional properties of both poultry meat and eggs.
  3. That it can meet the needs of the poultry industry by being produced efficiently and affordably.

To achieve these objectives, NutraMaize will work with Darrin Karcher, associate professor of animal sciences in Purdue University’s College of Agriculture, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s National Poultry Research Center in Athens, Georgia. This team will conduct research studies at Purdue’s Animal Sciences Research and Education Center and partner with grain farmers and commercial poultry producers to conduct field studies.

“We are particularly interested in working with organic egg producers since they have limited options for disease management and typically spend significantly more on expensive carotenoid supplements to ensure their yolks reach the dark color expected by their customers,” Rocheford said. “For organic producers especially, NutraMaize Orange Corn has the opportunity to reduce feed costs, reduce losses associated with disease and deliver a darkly colored egg yolk with enhanced levels of health-benefiting carotenoids. It’s really a win-win-win for the producer, animal and consumer.”

Rocheford said the company is looking for more producers to partner with to conduct commercial trials over the coming years.

“Our mission is to help improve the well-being of as many people and animals as possible,” Rocheford said. “So, we want to talk to every poultry producer, feed mill, grain handler, farmer and seed company who sees the potential value NutraMaize Orange Corn can provide at scale.”

To learn more about NutraMaize or to reach out to the company, visit

NutraMaize was co-founded by Evan and his father, Torbert Rocheford, the Patterson Endowed Chair and a professor of agronomy in Purdue’s College of Agriculture. More than 20 years ago, Torbert Rocheford started naturally selecting varieties of orange corn to help alleviate malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa as part of an international humanitarian effort called HarvestPlus.

Orange corn is licensed to NutraMaize through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. NutraMaize also received guidance from the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Both are managed by the Purdue Research Foundation.