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This startup wants to enhance our food with plant-based ‘supernutrients’

Inside the San Francisco lab of a biotech startup called Brightseed, computers are analyzing thousands of compounds in tiny samples of plants and searching for new samples of what it calls “supernutrients”—natural compounds that can later be harvested and added to food to help improve health. At a time when a poor diet is now the world’s leading risk factor for premature death, Brightseed wants to conceptualize food as medicine.

This isn’t necessarily new; some doctors now write prescriptions for fruit and vegetables. However, Brightseed is taking a novel approach, using advanced tech to find nutrients that can be used as preventative medicine by the food industry.

This fall, the first product will come to market: a micronutrient that’s found in a common spice (the company won’t say which), but in such small quantities that it wouldn’t have an effect as the spice is normally eaten. The nutrient boosts the liver in helping the body metabolize fat, the company says.

As with the rest of its research, it discovered the nutrient by training its AI models on decades of biomedical research. When the AI predicts that a nutrient will have a particular health impact, Brightseed then runs clinical trials to prove that it works. Then it develops processes to harvest the nutrient from plants and license the ingredient to brands that want to use it in foods and drinks.

Danone is said to be one of Brightseed’s first customers, so we’ll be keeping an eye for any new products that feature Brightseed’s plant-based ‘supernutrients’.

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