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A farmer in Sweden is working on replacing livestock with growing oats.
Adam Arnesson, who runs a farm Örebro county with his parents, used to sell the oats he grew as animal feed – or used them to feed animals on his farm.
But now, the oats are used to make milk by plant-based producer Oatly.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Arnesson said he wants to switch to growing more protein-heavy crops for human consumption, rather than increase the number of animals on the farm.
He said: “The natural thing for us would be to increase our livestock numbers, but I don’t want a factory.
“The number of animals has to be emotionally right so I know each of them.”
According to The Guardian’s article: “The rearing of livestock and meat consumption accounts for 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“Alongside carbon emissions from deforestation (for pasture or crops to feed animals), the livestock sector is also the single biggest human-related source of methane (from cattle) and nitrous oxide emissions (from fertiliser and manure), two particularly potent greenhouse gases.
“On current trends, by 2050 we will be growing more crops to feed directly to animals than ourselves. Even small shifts to feeding crops to humans instead of livestock would lead to significant increases in food availability.”
The article identifies Swedish plant milk brand Oatly as a company which promotes itself on the idea of tackling this issue, but Arnesson says many Swedish farmers believe the brand is demonizing them.
He said: “I had a lot of arguments on social media with other farmers, because I thought what Oatly was doing could bring better opportunities to our sector.”
Cecilia Sjöholm, head of communications at Oatly, said: “Quite a lot of farmers had a bad image, and perhaps even hated us.
“But we’re very much pro-farmer.”
Oatley CEO, Toni Petersson, added: “We want to be a catalyst company. We can help farmers move away from animals to plant production.”
Scientists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences looked at Arnesson’s production after his first year of focusing on oats for human consumption.
According to The Guardian: “[They] found that Arnesson’s farm was producing double the amount of calories for human consumption per hectare and had halved the climate impact of each calorie produced.”
This result is a key part of what the farmer wants to achieve.
“I don’t want to take pride from having a tractor, or producing 10 tonnes of wheat or a sow with 10 piglets,” he told the paper.
“But in feeding and preserving the planet – that is one of the big things I want as a farmer to be involved in changing.”
Oatly wants to work with three more farmers as part of a plan to highlight the value in switching from animal agriculture to arable farming.
Arnesson believes government support will be essential for livestock farmers to do so.
He said: “Converting to growing oats won’t be viable for everyone, and not for those dairy farmers that have built up a large farm business.
“But we need to start talking about farming in a different way.
“About the opportunities, and not just the problems.”