Agriculture, gut health & nutrition

Odgers Berndtson’s Mike Drew and Chris Hamilton, explore some of the novel areas of health tech and explain why they are poised for significant growth 

Most sectors in health tech are on a growth trajectory, but agricultural tech, microbiome therapies, and nutrition, will be among the super stars of the future.

Driven by increasing consumer demand for personalised diets and functional foods, the focus on sustainability and efficient food production, and advancements in biotechnology and microbiome research, these three sectors are becoming interlinked and undergoing rapid development.  

Interest in using diet to manage health conditions and prevent disease has skyrocketed in recent years.

Growing awareness among consumers is driving interest in the links between diet and health, and a demand for personalised nutritional treatments and therapies. 

Understanding among government health services is growing in tandem.

Traditional healthcare delivery models, designed to cater to the masses, rather than individuals, are resulting in poorer outcomes for patients and higher healthcare costs for payers.

Just this year, a review of personalised diet and nutritional treatments, concluded for conditions like schizophrenia, a “one-size fits all nutritional intervention is slim.”

Technologies enabling precision and individualised dietary recommendations are emerging rapidly.

The nutrigenomics market – the practice of analysing an individual’s genetic makeup to identify genetic variations affecting nutrient metabolism – is expected to grow to $2.5 billion (£1.7 million) by 2030, from its current $715 million (£456 million). 

The exponential development of the sector is understandable given the potential of its outcomes.

Already, Australian nutrigenomics company Genomic Diagnostics, can determine everything from a patient’s predisposition to certain diseases to the reason why they might not be losing weight, or absorbing certain nutrients.

Personalised nutrition also owes its growth to digital health platforms.

Across private health tech companies and public bodies, the collection of data on an individual’s diet, physical activity, and health outcomes is leading to personalised recommendations and feedback.

These platforms now encompass everything from wearable devices and mobile apps, to artificial intelligence providing real-time feedback on health conditions – just look around in the gym to see how many people now wear CGMs, diabetic or not.

The microbiome, closely tied with personalised nutritional health is an untapped goldmine of health care potential.

Considered, “the most important scientific discovery for human healthcare in recent decades,” by James Kinross, a microbiome scientist and surgeon at Imperial College London in a recent Guardian interview, the microbiome is associated with almost every disease. 

They also vary hugely from person to person.

The number of genes that make up the microbiome is far greater than the number of genes in the cells that make up the human body, demanding a personalised approach to patient treatment.

Because of this complexity, the therapeutic potential of harnessing the gut microbiome is vastly underexplored, yet companies are making strides forward.

Earlier this year, for example, mbiomics GmbH, a German microbiome biotech closed €13 million (£11 million), in a series A funding round – it has developed a precision technology providing targeted microbiome profiling. 

Alongside nutrition and gut health there will be an increasing focus on the production of the foods we consume, their quality and their subsequent impact on human health.

Agricultural technology is at the heart of this development and is on the verge of a revolution.

Using data, connectivity, and AI, agri-tech can increase crop yields, improve water efficiency, boost soil nutrient profiles, and foresee weather patterns.

This is completely changing the way farmers interact with their farms.

Hummingbird Technologies, for example, develops remote sensing capabilities which provide information to farmers, helping them to make decisions about crop rotation and improve soil quality.

Likewise, Novozymes, develops a biological solution to increase key nutrients in soil, to improve crop yields.  

This all comes at a time of heightened food demand and supply constraints in both transport and farming outputs.

Such is the importance of this sector, the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to spend £600m in the next three years on grants and support for agricultural tech.

The potential of agri-tech is huge, with McKinsey predicting the industry could add an additional $500 billion (£382 billion) in value to the global gross domestic product by 2030, if data and connectivity is achieved in global farming.

Like the wider healthcare industry, health tech is moving toward a future of holistic health and wellbeing that is personalised to the individual.

A large focus of this will be the intersection of agriculture, nutrition, and its impact on the individual, following the full life cycle of food development though to what happens when it lands in our guts.

For health care leaders it means a truly holistic approach to patient health and the broader health system, embracing partnerships, collaboration, and innovation.

While much of this is still nascent technology, the road ahead certainly looks bright for agri-tech, nutritional treatments, and microbiome therapies.


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