By Anna Volkwine, Office of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR Program
WASHINGTON –Visualize a scenario where you struggle every day to find clean water, whether it’s for drinking, cooking, bathing, operating equipment or otherwise. That struggle would quickly become a question of survivability. While this might seem like an unlikely situation, water scarcity is a race against conditions that impacts an inexplicable number of humans every day – including U.S. Army Soldiers.
Genesis Systems, is a small start-up and two-time participant of the U.S. Army xTech Program. Genesis’s co-founders, Shannon Stuckenberg and Dr. David Stuckenberg, and a team of technologists, are aiming to sustainably solve water scarcity across the globe with a portfolio of technologies.
The company competed in xTechSearch 5 in 2021 as a finalist for their technology, the Aqua-GEN portable unit, which can produce up to 5,000 gallons of water per day. The following year, Genesis came back and won the xTechSBIR Clean Tech competition for the air-to-water generation system called the WaterCube, which is a technology that produces fresh, drinkable water by pulling moisture from the air.
“There are 40 quadrillion gallons of water in the air at any given moment,” explained Erick Went, Genesis’s chief technology officer. “As long as there’s water in the air, we can get it.”
As a veteran combat pilot deployed overseas, David Stuckenberg saw firsthand how water scarcity impacts many nations, with some areas being only days away from running out of water. During his deployment, he witnessed convoys of trucks moving water to and from cities that were reliant on these deliveries as their main source of fresh water.
Bottled water comes with high shipping cost, cumbersome transportation and a limited ability to recycle the plastic. Genesis’s WaterCube simplifies the water supply chain and reduces the environmental footprint because it uses minimal energy, with no contributing pollution or hazardous biproducts.
“Everything we use as a society has a direct linkage to water. I realized it’s a finite resource, and began to wonder, ‘How much longer do we have?,’” said David Stuckenberg, who is also Genesis’s chief operating officer. “The answer to that question is not long. Genesis wants to get a jump on this problem, which is in our mission statement – to sustainably solve global water scarcity.”
The xTech Program, recognized Genesis’s capabilities and the potential impacts that the WaterCube could have for the world at-large. As a finalist in xTechSearch 5, they earned over $140,000 in cash prizes for the Aqua-GEN system. Genesis decided to enter the xTechSBIR Clean Tech competition the next year with a different technology, the WaterCube, given its alignment as an alternative for the critical – and sometimes scarce – resource of water. The company was a winner of this competition, and walked away with $12,000 in cash prizes and a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research award of $250,000.
“xTech is an intelligent and comprehensive program because it helps companies answer the question of how your technology translates to the field,” David Stuckenberg said. “There is a clear line from the competition to the award of contracts that matter to the U.S. military.”
Shannon Stuckenberg, who is also Genesis’s chief executive officer, shared that Genesis is now working tirelessly to prepare their technology for large-scale military and commercial applications.
Genesis is also shaping a global narrative on water scarcity through a partnership with the United Nations. In October 2022, the company spoke to the UN General Assembly as an industry representative among delegates and special interest groups. This meeting preceded the first UN Water Conference in over 40 years, which took place in March 2023 in New York City. David Stuckenberg represented Genesis at the conference as an industry leader in finding a solution to global water scarcity.
“Genesis commands the conversation on water, and that’s because we offer solutions that meet a lot of need across the globe,” David Stuckenberg said. “It translates from commercial, to humanitarian needs, to the military.”
The UN estimates that by 2050, more than 80% of the world’s population will face water scarcity. As a result, supply-side technologies that can bring water to the point of need are critical to global wellbeing. Genesis’s WaterCube is a frontrunner to meet this challenge as a humanitarian company with a military edge.
Established in 2018, the Army xTech Program strives to integrate small businesses and non-traditional vendors into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem by providing opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers from across the Army. Participants receive detailed feedback from Army and DoD stakeholders and have access to training, mentorship, and other support infrastructure as they progress through the competition to determine how best to align their technology solutions with real users and buyers within the Army.
The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, go to https://www.xtech.army.mil/.
The Army Applied SBIR Program offers Phase I contracts to small businesses and nontraditional vendors with technologies that show technical merit, feasibility , and commercial potential. It also provides funding to businesses capable of helping the Army achieve its goals and earn further federal support in Phase II. The Direct to Phase II award is for already-mature solutions ready for demonstration.
Through the Army Applied SBIR Program, companies engage with technical, acquisition , and operational subject matter experts. These specialists offer insight into the Army’s technological opportunities while guiding them through the Army research and development ecosystem.
The Army Applied SBIR Program releases contract opportunities on a rolling, ad-hoc basis to respond to the Army’s current and expected warfighting technology needs. For eligibility information and a list of open solicitations, please visit the Army SBIR|STTR website.