This Startup is Looking for Plants With Hidden Supernutrients

Brightseed wants to fortify your food to become preventive medicine.

Mar 28, 2020

Ancient medicine involved the use of herbs, flowers and other plants to keep people healthy. Modern medicine is looking at the botanical world to find new cures for diseases. Some doctors are even writing prescriptions for nutritious fruits and vegetables to improve their patients’ health.

Now a biotech startup Brightseed is looking for plant-based ingredients that are scientifically proven and can be used to fortify food into natural preventive medicine.  

The San Francisco California lab’s computers are analyzing thousands of plant samples searching for what it calls supernutrients that are micro natural compounds that can be harvested and used to fortify food that can help improve peoples’ health according to Fast Company.

“We can actually translate food into medicine,” Sofia Elizondo, cofounder and COO at Brightseed told Fast Company. “We know what it takes to grow things that are clinically proven to be more nutritious for a very specific health outcome. And in doing so, we hope to not only turn the healthcare paradigm on its head—to full-on prevention through what we eat—but also reinvigorate the entire supply chain.”

There are some plants that are already known to aid in people’s wellness like curcumin, which is found in the popular spice turmeric, gingerol, a compound found in ginger and reservatol, an antioxidant found in grapes.

Brightseed said that only 0.1 percent of the plant kingdom’s compounds have been explored and that they have built the technology to explore the rest. The startup is using artificial intelligence (AI) to comb through decades of biomedical research.

The company uses AI to speed up research that usually takes a very long time to compile. “Using those previously used] processes we’ve been able to comprehend about 100,000 plant molecules, and the plant kingdom has 10 million or even 100 million plant molecules,” Elizondo told Fast Company.

So trying to reach the vast boundary of 10 million is really an intractable problem. It would take us 50,000 years to address it. Brightseed essentially digitalizes the search for these micronutrients.”

When AI predicts that a certain nutrient can have a positive health impact, the company runs clinical trials to prove that it works. The startup also studies what it will take to be able to mine those nutrients from the plants.

“We start at the farm,” Elizondo said. “We start at the agricultural supply chain, and we’re able to understand the differences that soil has in nutritional content and the differences that different geographies or latitudes have on the nutritional content of specific plant sources, she said”

The company’s first product – a micronutrient that’s found in a common spice that helps your liver metabolize fat – will come to market in the fall of 2020. Brightseed is not saying what it is but since the spice is used in very small quantities, it would not have any effect on health.

The food industry has been interested in health and has already been making food healthier by taking out fat and adding healthier ingredients. Food giants like Nestlé, has its own Health Science Company, to do nutrition research. Giant food chains are investing in fresher produce by producing it on site.

Since nutrition impacts health, the food industry is in a unique position to impact people’s lives according to Elizondo. “Really,” she said, “the opportunity to bestow health and longevity to billions worldwide is not in the hands of the healthcare industry, it’s in the hands of the food industry.”

You will now have the opportunity to turn your diet from something that could potentially harm your health into something that can be a source of better health and wellbeing.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.