S2G is excited to support three companies that were recognized as 2020 Technology Pioneers by the World Economic Forum. Congratulations to the teams at Trace Genomics, Brightseed and Lavva on this important achievement. We are thrilled that our community of entrepreneurs will be engaging with public- and private-sector leaders to help define the global agenda on food and agriculture.
Advancing agriculture with soil science, genomics and machine-learning.
All countries today are faced with the challenge of how to best steward our natural resources – our soil, our air, our water – and support growing populations with a secure and nutritious food supply. Today, according to the team at Trace Genomics, 67 percent of the Earth’s soil used for growing food, fiber, and fuel is degraded. Soil quality and productivity have declined – putting the security of our food system in jeopardy.
Intensive, or industrial, agriculture is a top contributor to soil degradation. Intensive agriculture uses over 200 million tons of fertilizer each year. But not all of this fertilizer is consumed by plants. The unconsumed fertilizer causes soil degradation, air pollution, and runoff into freshwater sources.
Approximately 5.6 billion pounds, or 2.8 million tons, of pesticides are used worldwide each year. Properly used pesticides are an essential production tool, but when improperly used, pesticides not only contribute to soil degradation, but create insect and plant pesticide resistance, and put stress on beneficial pollinators, like bees and butterflies.
The solution? It starts with healthy soil.
Trace Genomics believes that we must have a better understanding of our soil so we can increase agricultural productivity, while also optimizing the use of agricultural inputs to reduce environmental degradation. Trace Genomics has developed a number of soil health measurement tools to help farmers produce food while preserving our soils.
The Trace Genomics platform combines cutting-edge soil science, genomics and machine learning to help farmers and agronomists make better planting and input decisions – like where, when and at what quantities they should use fertilizer, pesticides or other nutrients. The company’s technology can help increase production, reduce disease, and mitigate soil degradation to improve the profitability and resiliency of farms for generations to come.
Using artificial intelligence to discover phytonutrients for health and wellness
Brightseed believes that nature holds the answers to the world’s greatest health challenges. Its artificial intelligence is bringing the plant kingdom into high resolution for the first time, uncovering critical phytonutrients. Phytonutrients [phyto meaning ‘plant’] are natural chemicals plants produce to adapt to their diverse environments and protect themselves from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats.
Despite centuries of wisdom proving the medicinal and nutritional roles plants play in humanity’s diets, 99.9% of phytonutrients remain unexplored. Brightseed brings discoveries to market with mission-aligned brands that are working to democratize global access to health and wellness.
Brightseed’s discovery platform Forager’s first “hit” supports a healthy metabolism by supporting the health of the liver. When eaten as a whole food or taken as a supplement, Brightseed has reason to believe it strengthens the liver’s natural ability to metabolize fats and counteract the harmful effects of free fatty acids and inflammation that can result. The liver is the body’s primary metabolic organ, and a healthy liver helps the body maintain good health and prevent metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and other indicators of metabolic disorder.
Brightseed’s World Economic Forum recognition follows their recent announcement of a strategic partnership with Danone North America. The partnership will pioneer a new era of scientific discovery of the health benefits in key plant-based ingredients, beginning with soy. As a versatile and nutrient-rich whole food ingredient, the soybean is one of the richest sources of high-quality proteins in the plant-based world. Brightseed is identifying potential new molecular connections between certain compounds present in Danone’s raw soy and newfound health benefits previously unlinked to soy. Brightseed’s insights will illuminate the health benefits that may exist in one of the world’s most popular plants and enable Danone North America to accelerate nutrition innovation across their family of brands. Brightseed partners with mission-aligned companies to commercialize discoveries in food, beverages and supplements to shift the paradigm to food for better health.
Vegan yogurt made with simple real ingredients and zero added sugar
Liz Fisher, Founder and CEO of Lavva, began rethinking her diet after getting a cancer diagnosis five years ago. Understanding healthy cell metabolism versus cancer cell metabolism, and using fat rather than carbohydrates to make energy became a personal focus for Liz when she took on a strict ketogenic lifestyle. Adding these good fats led her on a global chase for natural fats, eventually falling in love with the Pili nut. Grown in volcanic soil in Southeast Asia, Pili has the highest vitamin E and magnesium of any nut. Blown away by its rich, buttery flavor, Liz began blending Pili nuts with coconut milk. The result was unlike anything she’d ever tasted before; spoonably thick, deliciously rich.
Over the next three years, Liz worked on perfecting the plant-based recipe. Instead of taking industry shortcuts like gums, coloring agents, artificial flavors, or sugar—she forged her own path. She discovered young plantains added naturally rich fiber, an essential component of a healthy diet often missing in traditional yogurts and a beautiful texture and hint of natural sweetness. And vegan probiotics added the perfect tartness. Today, Liz is healthy and Lavva is alive for all to enjoy.
This year, Lavva launched a decadent yogurt – Molten Lavva – and launched direct to consumer channel and subscription service. We are excited by Lavva’s clean label appeal to consumers that are looking for something different, real food in a delicious and healthy dairy free yogurt and milks.
Trace Genomics, Brightseed and Lavva represent groundbreaking innovations that have the potential to transform food. Together, along with our other portfolio companies and future portfolio companies, we are working to implement more sustainable technologies and business models from soil to shelf. We know transforming food won’t be easy. But together we are working toward healthier people and a healthier planet driven by a healthier food system.