CASE STUDY OATLY
Designing a PrOATocol for regenerative farming
3Keel worked with Oatly, the Swedish food company that produces oat-based dairy-alternatives, to develop a sustainable oat sourcing scheme for their new UK production facility.
atly is a Swedish-based food company that produces dairy-alternative products using oats. Oatly has become a household name in the UK as the market for plant-based products has sky-rocketed over the past few years. It produces and sells a range of oat-based products, including oat-based drinks, yoghurts, creams, spreads and ice creams.
Oatly has declared that it is on a mission, not just to provide consumers with nutritious dairy-free products, but also to drive a broader ‘food system shift’. Global food production currently contributes to roughly a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. The intensive cultivation of landscapes for food production also contributes to the degradation of ecosystems and loss of livelihoods for communities around the world.
Faced with these facts, Oatly has laid out an ambitious agenda to move away from models of farming that contribute to these issues and towards approaches that are part of the solution. Oatly has set a goal to ensure that its food system gives back to nature and communities in the regions that it sources from, by restoring carbon, improving biodiversity, and boosting farmers’ income by 2029.
To help deliver on this goal, Oatly approached 3Keel to design a sustainable agriculture scheme — aptly named ‘the PrOATocol’ — to structure its approach to oat sourcing in the UK. Between May and August 2022, 3Keel worked with the Oatly team to design a programme that would incentivise and reward farmers for undertaking practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve ecosystem functioning and build farm viability and resilience.
3Keel began this process by analysing existing regenerative and nature-friendly agricultural schemes, and previous work by a team at the University of Leeds. We used this analysis to develop a ‘menu of practices’ that farmers could choose from as part of this scheme. This PrOATocol ‘menu’ includes practices like growing cover crops, soil testing, practising no or low-till methods, and growing wildflower field margins – to name but a few.
Depending on the kinds of practices an oat grower chooses to implement, and the level of ambition at which they choose to implement them, the draft PrOATocol proposes that the grower would receive support such as access to a grower network, technical advice from agronomists, favourable contract terms, and additional funding for expenses they might encounter in transitioning to regenerative agriculture practices.
Both the menu of practices and the incentive and support package were developed in consultation with farmers operating in Oatly’s likely UK sourcing region, and with input from other UK oat supply chain actors.
At the end of the project, 3Keel presented Oatly with a proposed PrOATocol and implementation plan for making their sustainable oat sourcing ambitions a reality.
We look forward to seeing how the PrOATocol evolves and develops as Oatly begins a ‘pilot’ programme to explore how the scheme will work on the ground.