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Three AgFunder portfolio companies selected as World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers

June 18, 2020

We’re proud to announce that The World Economic Forum has named three AgFunder portfolio companies to its annual Technology Pioneers of 2020 list: Brightseed, Trace Genomics, and Phylagen. This list identifies 100 companies transforming their industries while also addressing key issues like sustainability. 

WEF Technology Pioneers are invited to participate in WEF activities, events, and discussions throughout the following year. Previous companies include Airbnb, Google, Mozilla, Palantir, Spotify, Twitter, and Wikipedia.

Brightseed is a biosciences company and developer of the world’s first artificial intelligence-backed discovery platform of phytonutrients connected to human health outcomes. It was selected for its contributions to the field of nutrition and health. Its first discovery, which is yet to be revealed, has the potential to improve metabolic and liver health, which may impact roughly 40% of the global population.

“The World Economic Forum brings together leaders from business, technology, government and NGOs to tackle some of the world’s most challenging problems,” Jim Flatt, co-founder and CEO of Brightseed, told us regarding the recognition. “It’s an honor to partner with the WEF community to democratize access to nutrition and translate our knowledge into tangible, natural solutions. We want to shift the healthcare paradigm from one focused on treatment to one focused on prevention.”

Brightseed, which was founded by Flatt, Sofia Elizondo and Lee Chae, recently announced a new partnership with Danone to research the health benefits of one of the world’s most consumed crops, soy. AgFunder first invested in its seed round in 2018.

Trace Genomics, a woman-led startup, is aiming to become the 23andMe for soil. It has developed the first scalable soil microbiome test to help farmers predict soil disease, soil health, and crop quality, using high-throughput DNA sequencing and machine learning. It was named in the Global Public Goods category.

“Every country on Earth is faced with the challenge of stewarding our natural resources – our soil, our air, our water – while supporting growing populations with a secure and nutritious food supply,” said Poornima Parameswaran, cofounder and senior executive at Trace Genomics. “To date, much of the scientific effort in farming has been focused above ground and on farming inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and seed genetics. Soil is the last biological frontier, is integral to increasing agricultural productivity, and is the foundation for food production. That is where Trace Genomics is innovating today – at the intersection of genomics, soil science, machine learning and agronomy.”

This is not the first time the startup has been recognized for its cutting-edge innovation. Trace Genomics was one of the winners in FoodShot Global’s Soil 3.0 Challenge in 2019. As a result, the startup received $3 million in equity investment from leading agrifoodtech investor S2G Ventures.

And last year, Daniel Vradenburg, the former president of major ag retailer Wilbur-Ellis, joined the startup as CEO. You can read about what motivated his decision to join the company here. AgFunder first invested in Trace Genomics in its Series A in 2018.

Finally, Phylagen is putting microbes to work but this time to achieve an unprecedented system of traceability for goods along the supply chain. The San Francisco-based startup has developed an analytics platform that catalogs samples of dirt, dust, and other matter from various locations around the world. Every location on the planet has a unique colony of naturally-occurring, invisible microbes, essentially creating a genetic fingerprint unique to each particular place.

“The Phylagen team is honored to be recognized by the World Economic Forum as one of their Technology Pioneers of 2020,” said Jessica Green, cofounder and CEO. “At Phylagen, we provide organizations with the power of environmental genomics and data to answer critical traceability and safety questions. From pandemic outbreaks to supply chain disruptions, unauthorized outsourcing, forced labor, and even brand counterfeiting, we’re seeing a growing number of applications that matter now more than ever.”

We invested in Phylagen’s Series A in 2018 alongside Peter Thiel-backed Breakout Ventures, agrifoodtech venture pioneer Cultivian Sandbox, and supply chain innovation fund Working Capital.

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