Hälsa said it has already begun work on the first farm of its program in upstate New York. High Meadows of Hoosick Farm is converting 300 acres of organic land to soon grow premium oats. They will create a guide book and a video to serve as a blueprint for others in the future.
The struggles of US dairy farmers inspired Hälsa to start the project. They also pointed to the nutritional value of oats and their environmentally-friendly growing process as key reasons for it being the best dairy alternative base. This will increase the availability of high-quality organic oats in the US, according to Hälsa.
Benefiting Hälsa and the planet
The production of coconut, almond and rice beverages all have negative environmental impacts, while Hälsa called oats “a resilient grain that also provide excellent soil erosion control and reduce the need for herbicides.”
Oats require much less water to work with, and Hälsa oats are currently grown in Scandinavia with a zero water footprint. They cited data from Bloomberg that says oat-based milk alternative sales in the US increased from $4.4m in 2017 to $29m in 2019.
Helena Lumme and Mika Manninen, co-founders of Hälsa, said, “Oats are one of the most environmentally friendly ingredients for making plant-based milks and other products. We are currently importing our organic oats from Scandinavia because we cannot find the quality that meets our standard in the United States.
“At the same time, US dairy farms are struggling due to slumping milk sales. So we thought, why not come up with a solution that benefits both of us and our planet?”
Hälsa is Swedish for health, and the brand eliminates all additives and chemicals from its manufacturing process and recipes of dairy alternatives. All products are sweetened and flavored with organic fruit.
Eric and Jamie Ziehm, owners of the High Meadows of Hoosick farm, said, “We’re excited to get started. Our goal is to build a biodiverse and biodynamic ecosystem that has the ability to regenerate its resources. We hope this will have a positive impact and also inspire our fellow farmers who are facing many challenges today.”
Upgrading dairy and non-dairy
The Hälsa program is similar to an announcement from Miyoko’s Creamery last year, another US plant-based dairy brand. Miyoko’s entered a partnership with Farm Sanctuary to help transition California dairy farms to plant-based.
They are not focusing on any one plant base, but Hälsa is committing solely to organic oat production. In Miyoko’s agreement, any new transitioned farms will become part of the company’s research and development efforts for new plant products, as well as supply chain partners for existing products.
Last month, Danone North America announced a new investment in regenerative and organic agriculture. For the next several years, Danone and rePlant Capital will financially support Danone’s farmer partners to convert their farmland.
Increasing biodiversity, enhancing ecosystems and enriching soil all contribute to organic and regenerative agriculture, and the $20m backing from this partnership will facilitate these practices on-farm.
For both dairy and plant-based products, farming upgrades are being prioritized in US agriculture. Efforts to combat and reverse climate change on farms are most commonly practiced through water reduction, waste management and soil health.