What if the key to improving people’s health sat in the application of AI and big data?
Not much is known about the function of compounds found in natural products – known as the ‘dark matter’ of nutrition. But with a burgeoning natural products industry, it’s perhaps more important than ever to harness this knowledge.
Meet the co-founders Dr John Ingram and Blake List of Digital Diets by Plant & Food Research. They are one of the start-ups taking part in our three-month Sprout 2023 Accelerator in the Cohort XI intake.
Creating new innovative health products is incredibly time-consuming and costly for companies. One on hand, there is a massive gap in what is known about the function of compounds found in natural products. On the other, there is an enormous amount of biological data to filter through and connect.
“This is where AI and big data come in. They’re very well suited to solving these problems. But, companies don’t often have access to cutting-edge AI technologies or teams of data and software engineers. This is where Digital Diets hopes to bridge the gap,” said Blake.
“Our platform streamlines the research and development pipeline and greatly reduces the cost of innovation and the time to market.”
Passionate. Collaborative. Future focused. These are the words used to describe the Digital Diets team, which is made up of data scientists, systems biologists, and biomedical researchers at Plant & Food Research. All led by co-founders Dr John Ingram and Blake List.
John is a highly experienced biomedical researcher with nearly 20 years of expertise in the field of bioactive discovery. With a primary focus on exploring the practical applications of scientific discoveries for commercial purposes, his expertise is invaluable.
Blake is a data scientist with a background in physics, mathematics, and languages. He brings a passion for connecting data through AI and knowledge graphs.
During the market research phase of this venture, the Digital Diets team realised just how many people were faced with the problem they were setting out to solve. This encouraged them forward, and after winning the Food, Fibre, and Agritech Challenge 2023 Emerging Technology award, gave them further assurance they were creating something sorely needed in the market.
The team is excited to be working with Sprout to help them gain an understanding of the commercial pathway and the business model for the venture.
“Essentially we’re keen to learn how we can transform our dream of a successful start-up into a reality.”
Aiming for success, the duo reflected on what success meant to them.
“Personally, having a life stable enough to one day have a dog and eventually start a family,” said Blake.
“Having the freedom to explore ideas and make them become reality with the support of amazing people,” said John.
Blake and John are both passionate about science and making a positive impact in the world. They thrive on innovation, enjoy questioning established scientific beliefs, and love proving doubters wrong.
It’s no small feat to be at the helm of a start-up. With big aspirations for the company that will require many more hours spent on the tools, the duo keep organised with the help of ChatGPT and surprisingly, a timer.
“It’s boring, but I set the timer for 15-25 minutes and race to get everything done before it beeps,” said Blake.
When it comes to sources of inspiration, Blake and John draw from a variety of people. From fellow entrepreneurs like Amos Palfreyman, Dr Jason Wargen and Demis Hassabis, through to their peers, family and David Goggins (who inspires Blake to ‘get off his butt and into the gym”)
Blake, John and the Digital Diets team are excited by the impact their venture could have.