THE RACE TO GROW THE WORLD’S GREATEST OAT
It's not rocket science... it's better
Rocket scientists get a lot of credit. But don’t be fooled by their over-the-top launch celebrations or their fancy mission control rooms (which are really just corporate offices with a few more screens). Rockets don’t really impact day-to-day life, unless you’re a cosmos-obsessed six-year-old or a cosmos-obsessed six-year-old trapped in a billionaire’s body.
However, you’ve likely had an oat. And those oats, and the really cool scientists who study them, may provide answers to a lot of the climate and health issues plaguing our world. That may sound like an exaggeration coming from a self-obsessed oat company, but after spending a few days in our new Science and Innovation Center in Lund, we feel totally comfortable taking such poetic license.
Lund is a university town of fewer than 100,000 people at the southern end of Sweden, and right now there are 10 geniuses (soon to be around 30) working at Oatly’s Science and Innovation Centre to solve global problems with the not-so-humble oat. In their lab, which doubles as a very Zen greenhouse, these researchers are living at the intersection of old-school gardening and cutting-edge science. According to Caroline Orfila Jenkins, Head of Research (dVP Food Science), the idea is to acquire a deep knowledge of oats through evaluating the individual properties of thousands of different varieties:
Caroline Orfila Jenkins, Head of Research (dVP Food Science):
- We're going to know everything there is to know about oats at the molecular level– from proteins and carbohydrates to flavors and colors– to discover what makes oats so unique! This pioneering oat breeding programme will harness the diversity of oats and allow us to select the best, most nutritious and climate-resilient varieties for making oat milk around the world. Our research will also demonstrate the health benefits of oat-dairy… and all of this underpinned by solid science. That's what we're after.
This may not sound like rocket science—mainly because it’s oat science, which, as we initially discussed, is cooler than rocket science—but consider the immediate impact of a more efficient, resilient, and nutritious oat. If successful, it would allow us to create more oat-based products that help us better address human health needs by reducing blood sugar and cholesterol levels and providing people with more sources of fiber.
Now, the initial plan with our Lund Science and Innovation Centre was to lock these geniuses in a room with some lab coats, oats, and soil and turn their brilliant findings into an academic paper that got cited by more academic papers that ultimately got talked about at academic social functions. But someone suggested a smarter way: connect our researchers’ work on optimizing oats for people and the planet with our product innovation team. As Frédéric Prothon (dVP Head of Operations & Research Infrastructures Food Science) explains, our scientists will work with some of the best brains in the world in state-of-the-art research facilities to produce exciting, tasty, healthy and sustainable products that will shape the next generation of oat-dairy.
In other words, oat milk and oat spreads and oatgurts are all just the beginning of a plant-based journey. What happens when we crossbreed a more versatile oat and use it to make tktktktk, tktktktk and tkkkkkk? (Our lawyers have suggested we not commit ourselves to a specific future product, so use your imagination.)
"I'm a researcher by education. But I moved very quickly into the industry because I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to see the results...The perfect oats would be, for me, to be able to...take all of the oats on the field and make it into a wholegrain drink"
Frédéric Prothon, dVP Head of Operations & Research Infrastructures, Food Science.
The launch of the Lund Science and Innovation Centre is part of a broader plan to establish and expand our research hubs in Europe, the Americas and Asia over the next few years. We also plan to do more fun photo shoots with our oat scientists and prove to you that they’re far more interesting and normal compared with, shall we say, rocket scientists.