Cargill Inc. is furthering its push into functional human and animal health with two investments aimed at gaining a leg up in this fast-growing wellness space.

The Minnetonka-based agribusiness announced last week a "significant investment" in a venture-capital fund of Seventure Partners that focuses solely on cutting-edge companies in nutrition, digestive and immune health.

It's the latest in a series of strategic investments or acquisitions in the health and wellness space that have been lumped together under Cargill's newly formed health technologies business.

As a large developer and purveyor of food ingredients, Cargill is hoping to quickly ramp up its ability to offer its food and beverage customers ways to incorporate these functional wellness attributes into its products.

While many people are familiar with the benefits of probiotics and fermented foods in aiding gut health, there is rapidly advancing science and research adding more complexity to the field, Cargill said.

The company did not disclose the size of its investment in the Seventure Partners fund. Its Health for Life Capital II fund focuses specifically on microbiome technology.

A Cargill spokesman described the investment as a way for the company to jump-start its knowledge of the companies that are playing a leading role in this space while bringing to the table a deep history of rigorous scientific research.

Danone, Novartis and Lesaffre are also investors in the ventures.

The news comes on the heels of a $25 million investment by Cargill in BioGaia, a Swedish company making probiotic ingredients for baby products aimed at reducing colic, constipation and other gastrointestinal-related issues.

"Ultimately, our goal is to help animals and humans live more healthy days," Chuck Warta, president of Cargill Health Technologies, said in a statement.

"We're excited about how this investment will help to build our Cargill Health Technologies business, and we look forward to continued growth in this space."

Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767