Brightseed, which closed on a $27 million round of growth financing, developed its artificial intelligence platform, Forager, to discover phytonutrients hidden in nature.
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Lewis & Clark AgriFood led the round, which brings the San Francisco-based company’s total funding to $52 million since being founded in 2017, Jim Flatt, Ph.D., Brightseed’s co-founder and CEO, said in an interview. This total includes $25 million in previous funding from S2G Ventures, Horizons Ventures, CGC Ventures, Fifty Years, Germin8 and AgFunder.
Plants produce phytonutrients to support their growth and protect against pathogens or predators. In humans, phytonutrients support health with anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective and neuroprotective activities, Flatt said.
“We know so little about the plant kingdom, so we want to explore the relationship between plants and humans,” he added. “We will investigate how plant-based diets lead to longer life spans.”
Forager is able to explore 99 percent of the compounds in the plant kingdom that have not yet been investigated. The platform has already quadrupled the world’s knowledge of phytonutrients, and is on track to shorten the time of exploration from 50,000 to five years, Flatt said.
All of that will help Brightseed more rapidly innovate to develop products for the consumer. In June, the company signed a multiphased partnership with Danone North America to use Forager to find previously unknown nutritional benefits of plant-based ingredients within Danone’s product portfolio.
Brightseed plans to use the new funding to deepen its understanding of plant compounds, expand its operations to support a growing number of partners, and complete development and commercially launch its first phytonutrient discovery.
The company is also partnering with researchers to look at fatty liver disease, one that afflicts one-third of the world’s population and does not have a therapeutic treatment, Flatt said.
“The solution to fatty liver disease is a better diet,” he added. “We have already found phytonutrients in 80 plants, such as peppercorn. However, peppercorns add a lot of heat, and not everyone can tolerate that, so we are looking at how to get the phytonutrient’s essence into something people can tolerate.”
Next steps for Brightseed
Meanwhile, Brightseed has been steadily growing since the company was founded three years ago. It started with discovery scientists and then began to build out a product development team. The company is now bringing on its first commercial team hires to put Brightseed in position to launch the phytonutrient product and expand its reach.
The company will be able to sustain that growth over the next few years with this capital raise, Flatt said.
As part of the investment, David Russell, operating partner at Lewis & Clark AgriFood, has joined Brightseed’s board of directors.
“Brightseed’s application of technology is transforming how we understand the resources available for our health and well-being in nature,” Russell said in a written statement. “These discoveries already have a major impact on ingredient selection and how we’re formulating the things we consume every day. This is a new approach that provides a much deeper understanding of the biological connections between plants and people.”
Illustration: Dom Guzman